055: Dr. Russell Thackeray doesn’t realize sales is supposed to be hard

Russell is a former professional viola player who, in the process of booking gigs for wedding and playing in the orchestra, recording music for Rowan Atkinson, and playing Les Misérables, accidentally fell into sales. (This is one of the best accidental sales stories I’ve heard.)

Not realizing that this was supposed to be hard, Russell achieved success that shocked his employer, and he learned about the power of mindset.

Along the way, he realized that he was not living well, and he cut 4 things out of his diet– alcohol, bread, potatoes, and cheese. He lost 168 pounds and now eats 800 calories per day.

His biggest advantage is sales came from not realized that it was supposed to be hard. So he did things that more experienced sales reps could not. (Of course, he had been doing “sales” for some time without realizing it– when he was trying to book gigs. He just thought of it as part of music.)

Learn Russell’s other big secret to sales success (and hear him break the viola players’ code), plus

  • how it’s important to lean into your strengths
  • how having “too much empathy” can destroy your sales ability
  • how you sometimes just have to pick up the phone and do the work
  • why we often make sales far too complicated
  • how his experience as a musician helped prepare him for sales (in some ways, but not in others)how selling is not just about the people you sell to, it’s also about figuring out who you don’t want to sell to
  • where you should spend most of your business development time when you start out (it’s not sales)
  • how experts and “nerds” can sell compellingly

055 Russell Thackeray.mp3 – powered by Happy Scribe

Hi Reuben Swartz here your host and chief nerd welcome to Sales for Nerds. I try to distill years of struggling with sales and marketing so you can learn the easy way. Plus get the scoop from other folks have accidentally ended up in sales and learned that it doesn’t have to suck. Now, as a software person who hated conventional CRMs, I ended up creating my own for folks like me in professional services who would rather be doing client work than sales and marketing.

It’s got a whole new take on lead magnets to the way to think about conversations and referrals, proposal, automation, e-signature. And if you’re the only one in your company selling or maybe the only person in your company, it’s got features so you don’t feel so alone. Start your free trial at Mimiran Dotcom. That’s M-I-M-I-R-A-N dot com and even if you’re not looking for a CRM, you’ll find proposal templates, checklists and more to help you grow your business.

Now let’s get to it. Today I’m super excited to have with me Russell Thackeray, who is the managing director of QED Organizational Development. There are a organizational consulting firm and I’m sure Russell will correct me and straighten me out on that.

He is also the host of the Resilience Unraveled podcast, and he started as a professional musician. And now I have yet to have a guest come on here and say, All my life I dreamt of becoming a sales superstar and sales trainer. I everyone’s got an interesting path to get there, but I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone start off via the professional musician route. So, Russell, welcome to Sales for Nerds.

I’m delighted to be here as another as another note. It’s good to be in your company.

All right. Very good. Well, speaking of company, Russell is a teetotaller, so he is literally going to be drinking tea. I on the other hand, I’m not. And so I’ve got this Monty Antico Italian wine, which is a blend of Sangiovese, Malo and Cabernet Sauvignon from Tuscany. And it is very nice. I have a little small glass here because I have to go somewhere after this. But anyway, cheers Russell and thanks for joining me.

Well, I’m having a couple of very exotic Lady Jane which is very, very enjoyable.It’s a nice blend of real strong tea in the sort of earl grey. So it’s it’s one of the things I didn’t I used to drink quite copiously many, many years ago. It’s actually one of the joys of being a professional musician. You spend far too much of your time quite liberated, certainly in as I used to do it. So there came a point in my life I decided to make a big change and I cut out for things from my diet, one of which was alcohol.

What were the other three?

The other three, what was bread? OK, potatoes and cheese.

So OK, so I get the alcohol, I get the bread and potatoes. Why cheese?

Because they’re all trigger foods for me and and I think in life and behaviours, you know, the way behaviour works as a psychologist, you know, they have a trigger and a response and the behaviour and what I should say and cheese, the cheese, the trigger food for me. And many years ago, I remember going on the Atkins diet and the Atkins diet was very much about it. You had some sugar and they used to say you can eat unlimited amounts of cheese.

And my wife at the time used to say I was reincarnated from being a mouse because actually I used to drink a pound. I used to eat a pound of cheese for breakfast because I love cheese so much.

Ah, OK. This is starting to make sense.

I put on three quarters of a stone on the sides and so I went through a bit of a big life change moments where at that time and I lost actually twelve stone.

Now for American people a stone is fourteen pounds is that right.

That’s it– twelve times fourteen whatever that is. You do the math. I can’t, I can’t do the alcohol.

That’s like one hundred and sixty, one hundred and seventy pounds. Yeah that’s a lot.

It was a lot and I could afford to lose it so. And actually just by losing those four things and it’s really I learned something quite interesting about myself and it’s interesting to psychologist because you spend a lot of time talking to people about self-awareness and I think you’ll talk a lot about this one, about sales, productivity and how we think about our own performance. I would eat sort of really good feedback loops to really sort of develop all practice salespeople. And the thing that I certainly discovered when I was 14 years ago, I can cook things out, but I can’t do things in moderation.

Mm. And and it’s been something for me that I tend to have this bingeing type thing. So when I’m selling off sales binges and when I’m, when I’m not selling, I’m selling drugs, but I find I find it very hard as a person, it’s sold in my personality to be able to really do things a little and often.

So for me today, it’s it’s all about substance. So I’ve been finished. I recently called the 800 calorie diet day. That’s sort of a day. And it’s tremendous really, really well for me, because, of course, it’s all about cutting things out. And, you know, when you think about the way we incentivise people, salespeople, other people, we often talk about this idea of rewards and punishments. And and it’s actually really important to us when we motivate people to think about this idea that, yes, we’ve got an incentive.

Nice people all the time, but losing something you already have is a very powerful psychological factor in motivating people because to have this thing called sucralose bias and they often hate this idea of losing something. Right. And what tends to happen is we’re maybe running a sales force and say we want to incentivize them so that they don’t do this. They won’t get that bonus. What we very rarely say is we don’t do this. You lose something you already cut.

Years ago, I used to work for a sales director and a couple of them, and he used to put the low performing sales people work for rental cars.

And they used to the lowest performing sales people in Renaults Fours because the humidity is so terrible that there was a big disincentive for coming last. And I think sometimes we if we get on a very sort of cocky way of thinking about incentivisation, we forget that as well. So, I mean, it’s very interesting because actually I learned some of these things from being a musician. So go back to that that point. You’re absolutely right. There are very few musicians in the world who’ve gone on to become salespeople, but those that have often been quite successful.

Well, so I didn’t mean to dive into diets and whatnot, but now I’m intrigued. How long are you supposed to be able to sustain the eight hundred calorie day diet?

As long as you want. As long as you want. You don’t have any loss of energy. You’re fine.

Much better. In fact, in fact, it’s one of it’s one of the principles of aging that you’ll see just about everywhere. If you want to increase your your healthy longevity, it’s about a third less than you currently do. Simple as that.

Well, that makes a lot of sense. I think most Americans are not starting at twelve hundred and trying to cut 800.

No, most of us starting at six or seven thousand and then being agreived as we’re going to 5. I mean, and don’t get me wrong, I love America.

And one of my greatest places is the Cheesecake Factory, because I’m, I’m a classy guy and we Brits love to go over there and we’d love to get an I look just to order a a sweet potato fries. And 73 people come out bearing the weight of this huge trough of sweet potato fries to which I sort through my face into and start guzzling away because, you know, you guys know how to do portion sizes over there.

Well, in Texas, I mean, America is one place, but Texas, we take it to a whole level, even beyond the American standard.

Well, I’m going to Texas. Yes, I’ll be going to Dallas. That’s Texas next. And I’m looking forward to hearing so much about Texas. And and I remember I will go to Alaska and and and then looking at someone and saying, oh, Texas. Such a cute state. Right.

People probably have this image of you of as this like crazy punk rocker who was drunk and eating cheese all the time. But that’s not actually the kind of professional musician you were, right?

Well, one of those things was correct. No, I was actually a classical musician. So I started I played the viola, which is which, for those of you don’t know much about, music sits between a violin and a cello in terms of size. And viola players notoriously become very entrepreneurial because we thought it’s sort of a standard joke in an orchestra that to be able to sort of hide in the middle don’t do much. And every now and then they have a solo and everybody freezes over because of experience.

And a lot of people who are musicians viola players, become very entrepreneurial and become orchestral managers often become one of my great friends who is a world record producer. And Allen runs a record label. But my background was classical music and I worked my way through the English UK system and became a freelance musician. And I worked in the big symphony orchestras. I was a concession music and I worked in some of the Western shows. It was my to my great persistence.

I did Les Misérables three three three hundred eighty four times a year.

And and that led to a real appreciation of the condition of musicians, which is that I’d be I’d be doing like a film music session. And a film is a very highly paid and you could actually expect to see anything magically one long note for three hours a night playing these phenomenal solos that some film, music composer etc put together.

And basically you’d be on your own and very exposed. And then in the evening I’d go to the pit and they’re miserable. But it lets the phrase that musicians are bored stiff or scared stiff, OK?

And and actually it’s it’s really been very interesting for me during the course of like two presentations, sales presentations and realizing that actually that history of performance, history of using music as a communication method has actually served me in great stead through the rest of my life, because actually I have no fears of standing up, talking to lots of people, and I’m used to communicating without speaking.

Right.

And actually, that stands you, and that’s really, really powerful stuff.

And I definitely want to get back to that because that sounds much more important to the content of this podcast than what I’m about to ask you. But I want to know why the viola players are so entrepreneurial, is it because they don’t have to practice as much as the violinist and the cellist or what’s going on?

Well, it is actually physically… I’m going to break the viola players’ code. There’s a lot of viola jokes, you know, the butt of the orchestra and everyone tells jokes. But actually, just generally that viola part time is taxing in the middle range.

You have to show up in the and the first violins and the other very melodic. The cellists and the bass players have all the bottom bits and then the builders are sort of, you know, sort of doing the knitting in the middle anyway. And of course, it’s very lovely. We pride ourselves on being different. I mean, if you’ve ever if you ever watched an orchestra play like Johann Strauss Evening, that violinists are doing wonderful things with the flutes and the violas are going bup, bup, bup, bup, bup, bup.

You know, you learn to be a concert musician. You spend the rest of your life effectively shoveling concrete into a hole.

And for a lot of this, I mean, recently I was in the West End and I bumped into some colleagues of mine who were doing Phantom of the Opera, and I’d been running a big training course for a big scientific organisation. And then they walked in this this sort of old wizened guy with all gray hair in front of that. I looked and said to him, I looked at me. I said, Russell, I mean, you know, I’ve got gray hair as well, but I wasn’t.

And he’s been doing that show for twenty seven years.

OK, let me show it shows a week.

You decided at some point I’ve had enough of this or I need to do something else. How did that whole process start and how did you kind of start down the path of getting into sales?

Right. Brilliant question. So first off, whilst I was still playing, I got into the business side of music. So I started running wedding music. I used to put together string trios, quartets, ensembles, and I used to put adverts in the paper. And I used to book musicians for wedding music. I used to handle enquiries and sometimes I used to do some music. I work for a guy called Rowan Atkinson. I don’t know if you have that here and did all this sort of session music and suchlike and worked for his composer.

How it got all that. We still all of Rowan’s music and I used to fix the orchestra to administration, call people up, persuade them to do gigs for me and, you know, sometimes for half the money would like to do. And and I didn’t realise that this is all sales, but I didn’t really didn’t know that. I just thought I was booking orchestral musicians the gigs. And I decided to give up music during after the les miserables experience and I sorted what it is. I wound it down. So there was a declining curve away from music. Was that built up my work in the commercial world? What I did is I went to at the time a recruitment agency. And what they said to me was, hey, what do you do? And I describe what I did and said, all right, so it’s just like pulling lots of people together to get them to do stuff. I said, yes, that’s sort of what it’s like.They said, you’d make a great recruitment agency because that’s about getting people to come and do jobs, but they’re just secretarial jobs instead of musicians jobs. And I said, yeah, that sounds great. I said, well, what we’ll do is we’ll test you up. First of all, you said you are to one of our clients, which I always think is great recruitment. You know, we do what we were doing, the training. So what do we send you in to try and get paid for being trained?

Right. And off I went and I went to this company, Renault, and I pitched up on the first day and said, hey, hey, what we’re going to do is a great experience. You’re going to love this. You’re going to love this. I’m sort of getting fixed with the beady eyes, it’s unlikely. But go on. What do you got for me, somebody like you to sell some vans over the phone? And I said, how do you mean, sell a van over the phone? And they said, they want to get on the phone to everybody that’s French and them. I said, well, you don’t want to. About this one. About you finished, I suppose, to what training are you going to give me? They said just have a go.

Now, do you speak French?

None at all. But I was it’s all based in Britain. So it was all ringing in French companies, in French restaurants. And this is one of the things that had to do, I had to figure out, is that the French embassies, there are lots of French companies, especially in London and French florists. And so what I do is I just sort of think about French companies. I give them a ring and say, hey, you’re French. I work for a French company and we have to remember about the French. Is that quite how can I put it clique-y? That’s how we put it in the press and in our world. And so they tend to buy French.

They’re very loyal to their own brands. And so I used to ring them up and say, hey, fancy buying a van? And, you know, I sold all these vans and at the end of three weeks, the sales rep came back to me and said, You’ve sold how many? And I said this many and he said, well, no one’s ever sold one before. How did you do? Is it because it’s so hard? I said, Well, I wish you hadn’t told me it was hard because I thought it was really easy.

And and that was the beginning of this actual journey into mindset for me. When people tell you something is something that we need to start to limit your ability to actually do things for yourself. And I went back to the recruitment agency and I started to work on their sales desks very quickly. And I was selling something people. So basically, people would come in on a job, first of all, have to find the jobs for them that I have to interview, then I have to get an interview.

And it was hard sales on the phone, 50 calls a day of ringing people up and saying, hey, you got the job. They got jobs, jobs. People slam the phone down at the shower. You tell me where to go. And then and then you ring one day then suddenly bosz that say, yeah, we’ve got a job and then you go and pick up the job and then you find the people and you put the job together to get it in some place.

And what I quickly learned is that if you do 50 calls a day, you pretty well have a sales funnel. That means let go get a certain number of appointments, a certain number of jobs, a certain number of interviews. And actually you have to get over yourself and just get on with it. And I became really good at telling business. And I think you and I were chatting about this recently. We were I was talking to a formal business to business sales organization to say we need to do some prospecting.

And I said, well, don’t use your face to face sales people to do tons. That’s a different skill. You know, it’s a different skill. A lot of face to face. People are frightened of doing telesales. I don’t like it seem to be beneath them because they need that. They need the visual piece. They need to look into people’s eyes and sort of, you know, show off. And they don’t realize that telesales person works in a different sort of way.

And so I started referring to sales 50 calls a day, Boschert Bash, Bosh and all that sort of stuff, you know, and then it became because obviously I was good at sales. The first thing I was then happened to me was I was promoted. So that’s it.

So hold on. Let’s not skip over too many things here because you’re telling the story. You’re like, well, of course, I just went and I did it and I was good and it was fine. But I’m imagining most people listening or saying, well, what the heck were you doing that was different than all the other people who supposedly were good at sales but weren’t actually selling as much as you. What were you doing?

Two things. One which is I didn’t know was difficult.

All right.

OK, that’s really important because once people start get into this attritional mindset about sales rather than just think and it’s communication, I’m going to ring someone up. I’m going to talk to them today. And the what I’m going to talk about is this I’m actually I believed in the product. I know what it’s all about. And actually, I was very well incentivized and I was young and stupid. I would say I was young, handsome and stupid. You know, I certainly was young and on the point of that is actually sometimes we over engineer sales.

We are being stupid is useful, sometimes not knowing too much, not not not having too much empathy, not thinking or disturbing someone’s day or I really shouldn’t do that. Do I have the right to make this person is what I’ve got to say compelling enough. This is ring them up. Hey, got jobs. Right?

Because actually I didn’t know enough. And I think sometimes we’re overburdened by too much knowledge. We overthink things. We become almost too often the body isn’t that we become too professionalized. And especially if you’re a nerd, you’re more authentic as a salesperson. Just ringing up and saying, hey, you know, I’m an architect. We’ve done some brilliant designs. Would you be interested in a chat? And sometimes that comes over as being so much less polished, so much so much less processed than some professional.

So that’s interesting. I was chatting to someone today when in fact, I’m starting a new therapy center in a local area next to us. And as part of that, we’re stocking CBD. The sales guy was on the line to me today and he was a man that knew a lot about CBD and his knowledge far exceeded my interest. And so most of the time I was sitting there gritting my teeth, just saying, for goodness sake, stop talking and just answer the questions I’ve got.

But no, he was over burdened with knowledge and he was going to tell me everything he knew. I think we have to recognize the salespeople. The thing that you have to do most of all is get in and get out and be slick, be really efficient. Don’t worry too much about some of the things that we’ve been trained to worry too much about. Sometimes not knowing everything is a real yes. I used to work with sales guys said before I make a sales call, before I make a sales call, I need to research the company.

I need to research the person and check them on LinkedIn. I need to do this. I need to do that. So I said how many sales call do you do in a day? He said 4. So how’s that working for you that you said up to the weeks? Now I’ve got one appointment and I said that person is than forty in the day.

I mean, you know, sometimes we really, really overcomplicate overcomplicated, very, very simple process. And I’m talking particularly about business, the business sales here.

I wouldn’t know anything about it. Yeah. If you tell me I believe you. But I’ve never had that experience ever. So all kidding aside, what was the second thing that you were doing differently?

Well, they were the two things. One, which is not knowing too much. And the second OK, second one was just being authentic.

Okay, being authentic. I didn’t know what that was the second. Yeah.

And part of that was because I haven’t had any training and so I was just communicating. This is where being a musician it helped me because actually the first thing you do as a musician, you think about what the audience is interested in and you also think about the art you’re creating and the message that you have to get through. And you’re sitting there thinking, what’s the best way to take this art and put it into a format that an audience would be really interested to really appreciate.

So you become the translator of the message to the ear. And I think that’s what you’re doing. As you said, we think more carefully about how do we structure this message to make it really fascinating for someone to listen to rather than saying, hey, is the feature here is the benefits, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And you get stuck into a sort of a process. You actually learn to be much more skilled at listening to what the person saying, listening to what’s important to them and actually, you know, finessing your message. I’m a great believer. And like sales mavericks for companies up to a certain size, those people are really great. Once you get above a certain size, says Mavericks, obviously you need to be prudent. But this idea of having people who aren’t quite so bound by the process can be quite, quite good for you sometimes.

OK, how do you know if you’re at a place where you need to prune those people out or not?

I think once you get to a certain size, organizations have to start minimizing the risk they get from the salespeople when when you’re small and if you’re starting off in your new business. So, for example, I’ll be bringing up all the businesses now and my local area saying, hey, we stop this therapy center and we got people who are stressed, are suffering from burnout. What’s going to happen is going to lose their lives to them. And if actually it’s people that know who you are and slam the phone numbers really matter because I’ve got nothing to worry about.

But I’ve got a colleague of mine who only says one deal a year, but it’s so huge that actually can’t afford to get that one deal wrong because that’s his only deal I get. So actually he has to follow the process. He has to be much more structured, has to know the ins and outs of lobbying, deal making deals, structuring value proposition, all that complex stuff because he’s running a huge six month long procurement process. Whereas I was just ringing up people and saying, hey, you got this.

And when they put the phone down, they just go, who is that? And then they forget about me. They can’t afford to forget about him. So an organization, when it reduces, when it becomes big enough and we have to minimize the risk themselves, needs to have much more process in it. The trouble is that some organizations strip away the ability for people to use their common sense in a sales process. I was working quite recently and a large motor dealership and they were with every experience and have great results when they follow their own process.

But they’re not allowed to follow their own process. They have to follow the process which they are at which the the dealer brand has actually said is important. And the dealer brand has a number of staging post it has to measure and it’s process, one of which is having a test drive now. So in other words, you have to a point that you have to create where someone comes in. I mean, fashion is that in today’s world, then you have to have a test drive.

So how people are having to do this, even when sometimes they’re arriving and they know more than the salesperson and they’ve already got the same vehicle, they just want the new version and think about the know. They have to have the they have to have the test drive because that’s the way we’ve created the process. Now, the process has been created to drive out innovation. It’s been created to drive out anyone being able to think creatively down the process.

And I think, therefore, we end up with salespeople who are processing their customers, especially in retail. And I think what ends up happening is people stop, stop using their imagination to think much more about being incentivized and you lose up, you lose some pride and scale in terms of being able to sit down. And so I’ve got one who are really I that what really matter to me. You don’t want the easy sell sometimes. Sometimes you want what you want is a real it’s like fishing.

Isn’t that you want the one that really fights on the end of the line. You know, you really have to work out. I mean, some some of the deals I’ve often wondered have been the most difficult thing. It’s not always been the best of the biggest deals with it being some of the most difficult deals to hook. Had a lot of meetings. And you’ve got to go backwards and forwards and you’ve had to lobby different people. You have to presell like mad, and you’ve got to really finesse something and you go do Taster’s and you’ve got to do all sorts of things.

At the end of it. You get can the deal. Yes, it’s really great. And which you then I wish it wasn’t that deal actually ended.

Well, it’s like anything that you do right. That when it’s really hard and you put a lot of effort into it, it’s satisfying when you achieve whatever it is, whether it’s a sale or playing a difficult piece or something like that. And so you’ve now got this situation where you’ve figured out that, well, you didn’t figure out. You didn’t know it was supposed to be hard. You’re just yourself. You’re just trying to be helpful. You’re willing to to do what it takes.

What happens next? How do you decide to go start your own company?

Well, before that, I became a sales manager, a regional sales, sales and marketing director, and, you know, went into that sort of side of things, both for large and small companies, but then went out the sales line and went into becoming a CEO. It worked as an operations. And what was fascinating working in operations was you realize how binary and simple sales is, isn’t it funny? So what happened? And this is the thing that.

Some Nerds forget sometimes that if you’re an architect or an engineer or a journalist or something, the levers for incentivizing people to do what you want aren’t simple. If you work in accounts and you’re running an accounting team, you can’t say, well, I’m going to if you don’t do it, I’m going to take your bonus away because these people aren’t getting a bonus. So you’ve got to learn to manage and deal with people and learn to communicate with them in different sorts of ways.

And I think actually, if you want to be a sales manager, sales director, it’s really good for you to go out to the sales line. So when you go back and you realize how lucky and blessed you are, because it’s actually quite easy compared to some other bits. Now, I’m saying that between you and hopefully you know what you’re saying, but everything is true.

Don’t worry, no one listens to the show.

But I heard a rumor, but I decided to start my own business, having worked in a small company and I haven’t been a musician. Yes, of course. I’ve worked on my own. I’ve been a freelance musician. I haven’t been part of a one orchestra. I’ve been I’ve been going around and selling my west. And so it was a natural thing to say to myself, well, OK, let let me do something. And then and during the sales and marketing sort of ventures that had become a psychologist because I was interested in really having a view of what was going on.

And I joined a management consultancy and worked for them and then came out to them and started my own training company and what I did.

So you became a psychologist. Let’s go into that for just a second. What exactly do you mean by I became a psychologist? That’s a very interesting thing to just sort of mention in passing.

Yeah, I’m one of those people who like studying and I have a number of different masters degrees and doctorates and such like and and study the law to learn all the sort of I miss part of sales. You have to understand about behavior, motives, intention, influencing, negotiating, all those different things. And actually it’s just communication. I learned and help, first of all, became a master practitioner, got interested and then went on and did degrees and such like and qualifications and psychology at the time, what was called behavioral psychology and neuroscience and suchlike as well.

And so just to be clear, you’re talking about you went off and studied psychology, meaning you got a Ph.D. in psychology.

I’ve got a I’ve got a different sort. I’ve got different qualifications in psychology. I have many. OK, I know this sounds weird, but I’m one of those people that’s very restless and very busy most of the time. So last year I became a qualified hypnotherapist for fun. OK, so I do collect qualifications. I do collect quite interesting things. So I’m I’m a traditional psychologist. I’ve also been energy psychology as well, which is real fun and games, very interesting, exciting things.

What does that even mean?

What does that even mean exactly? It’s it’s what we call the Woo Woo and psychology, which is reading people’s auras and emotional freedom techniques and learning to tap your face and are fully aware. Honestly, I’ve done all sorts because I’m completely open to learning and doing things differently all the time.

OK, I just want to make sure that I understood what it meant by I went off and studied psychology. Like you didn’t just go take a course for a couple of weeks, you went all out.

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. And you know, I was working full time and studying. And when I when I did my first MBA, I was working in a full time job and to ourselves time. And I was studying in my spare time and and did my MBA. And that was my first MBA. And I have three master’s qualifications now. And, you know, I do them in my spare time because actually, if you enjoy what you do, it’s it’s not it’s not a hard thing to do, really.

And I like the academic world because actually it really teaches you to think in a different way. And your kids will understand that because they’re already engineers, they’re already software people. They’re brilliant at coding. They understand that learning is a natural part of what we do. And that just hadn’t that it’s just another channel of learning and that’s what it is really now.

Didn’t mean to digress there. I want to make sure I got clarity on that point that you became a psychologist and then carry on…

So so that I started off my own firm of training and development.

We go with business. We were working with large organisations, selling management, leadership training, pretty large pieces of work. Mr Williams with trade shows going into shows, standing on an exhibition stand when it’s tough, getting sending out leads, sending out emails, getting leads, coming in, doing cold, cold calling, having a team, doing it’s different things for us. And I used to do the sales closing and we used to win all sorts of different types of training development.

And my job was to be quite innovative and to come up with ideas when companies didn’t know what they wanted. So sometimes I’d say we want some sort leadership training, but we want something that no one ever seen before. I said, OK, great, so let’s come up with that. So we’ll do something that no one’s ever seen before. And we used to do work like that. So a lot of tailoring. And actually what I realised after a while as I was doing what we call the consultants Excel, because actually we were inventing things as we went along for large scale clients who may ostensibly seem to want one thing, but what they really wanted something else.

And you had to become quite shrewd to be able to do that sort of large B2B corporate sale. OK, and that was good fun, and we developed all sorts of new innovative products to start with the venture capital companies, private equity houses, and we started doing the assessment of what we call human capital. In other words, what what is your sales? What is your company worth in terms of the people that you employ? Because if you think about those assets and people are your assets and a lot of private equity houses that go into organizations, that they acquire them and they just sack the top 50 people.

And we were saying, well, you know what? That seems a little awful waste. Why don’t we want to make more of those people? Why don’t you create a culture that’s more about, you know, really sort of getting to grips with what’s going on here. And we sold the company after a while.

And then I came up my own and formed the organization department really for fun, because you sometimes get to that stage where you’ve got enough money, you’ve done what you wanted to achieve, and you sit there on the beach one day thinking, this is great, and then a month later divorced and then you’ve got no money and you can’t afford to sit on the beach anymore. OK, you have to start again from scratch. And I think one of the one of the I think one of the key things that Warren Buffett says, rule number one, to not being poor, never get divorced.

And I think it’s something that we have to do really good for me. It was good for me in later life to be starting again from scratch with a small company and certainly winning more work, harvesting clients before winning new pieces of business and innovating come up with new products, doing marketing campaigns, just getting out there. But I’ve become more of the the nerd again. And I was doing some of the delivery now, not just the selling, and I was working with the salespeople.

So it was now about recruiting and hiring and managing salespeople as well as doing it myself. And what I’ve noticed about myself, about as I’ve got older, I’m much better at the big final sales, but I can’t tell you sales anymore because I’ve got too much empathy now, because I’ve done all this professional development and I worry too much about what a person might be doing and thinking on the other end of the line. And it’s and it’s really fascinating bringing people in who’ve never done before and saying, you know, that phone is a database, just work your way through it and they pick it up without fear.

And I find that really I look at myself and think, hmm, that’s interesting. I wonder what it is. What is it about knowing too much, having too much empathy that gets in the way of your ability to be good at sales? Because when you watch and I think that’s where I go, interest and resilience really its ability to know how to focus and to drive negative thoughts out of your head, because a lot of times with salespeople that dealing with rejection and if you have too much empathy or emoting too much, you’re putting yourself in your customers shoes too much.

You can get yourself a bit damaged if you’re not careful and then you lose your ability to bounce back. And then, I mean, a lot of salespeople who burned out. And of course, now as a psychologist, doctor of all these sorts of things that I do, I’m working with those people who are burning out. And, you know, I’ve got some clients who are Silicon Valley people are working 100 hour weeks and being surprised that the burn out because they’re addicted to work.

But now you sseeay I’ve got someone else doing my sales for me and that’s quite lovely lately.

Well, it’s funny because you answered the question I was about to ask you, which is now that you know all this stuff, how do you sell if you lost your one of your big advantages? And it’s interesting that even as somebody who you recognize, you have the self-awareness to understand what’s going on, you can’t fix that. Right. It’s too late. You have the empathy. You can’t undo that.

I think I think what you do is you you play to your strengths as something. I learned the personal development many, many years ago. Play to your strengths. I have worked in organizations with brilliant salespeople.

Brilliant, truly brilliant. But the processes that have to do their own admin. And then you end up with that very average salespeople who are spending most of their time doing admin. And what you have to do is you have to think about in sales like every part of your life, do what you’re brilliant. Now, when you start a new business, often you’re the only person in it. You can’t tell what you’re brilliant because you’re pretty well. You’ve got to do everything.

And so you learn things about yourself that you didn’t know.

You knew you could be suddenly discover your brilliance is something you never knew. You’re brilliant. That doesn’t mean that you want to do it, but you find skill. And so you didn’t know you had. And what we’ll also find is that you may have been a nerd and you’ve learned to communicate in that particular way to other the nerds. And actually we need to get rid of sometimes just need to stop calling it sales, because it’s the sort of for some people a negative connotation of calling itself.

What we have to do is just call it marketing. What we have to do is call it business development, or we have to do is calling it revenue generation. So sometimes the word sales just has a horrible thing. But for me, know your strengths, play to your strengths. And if you are truly brilliant, sometimes it’s the job of the organization to to work around you if you’re that good in your job, especially when it’s a small organization.

Again, as you get bigger, sometimes you have to drive up that level of innovation, but into. You do then, you know, I allow those people to do what they did, you know, for me, a great and small company, if you hire a good salesperson, they’re like a brilliant soloist, a musician that’s a soloist. They come in, they sprinkled pixie dust all directions. You can’t quite see how they’re doing it, but it’s working and that’s what matters.

Yeah. And I think you said something really important about just sometimes people get really hung up on the word sales. I know that happened to me and I turned it into help instead of sell. And suddenly that was something that I felt that I was equipped to do and eager to do and happy to do and could do authentically.

That’s a brilliant point. I work for someone else who was who it but who was was a journalist and set up his own firm, had quite a big meet, had quite a big ego, and we described it this way. And he said that they have a need, you have a solution. So you owe it to them to tell them your solution, because once they hear your solution, there’s no way they want to hear anybody else’s. And that was enough for him to say, oh, yeah, get that’s not that’s not sales.

That’s just showing off. I said will show up on the phone and make it happen. And it’s also going up through the sales process from start to finish. It’s OK to excel at some bits and not to others. You know, I remember hiring years ago and we were a small company and we interviewed a guy and he sat in front of us and he was a real big ticket sales guy. And he said, if you hire me, you’ll have to hire telesales person because I’m not Intellisense.

And I sat and I was young and naive and stupid, which is not good as a manager in my case, … Manager. And I said to him, that’s just ridiculous. I’m not going to do that. And I probably passed over one of the best salespeople in our industry because I was stupid and didn’t realize what I know today, which is he was right and he shouldn’t have done his homework because the value he brought was sitting in front of clients.

Absolutely knocking the socks off. And the last thing he should have been doing was admin or telesales. And and I think and I think sometimes when we designed organized stations, we we sometimes forget especially one the small. But it’s OK to be slightly unusually shaped because actually you’ve got someone who’s super, super at something, you know, and therefore you need to sort of wrap something around them to minimize the weaknesses in different areas. It’s not a popular view, but it just works all the time when it’s becoming more popular.

I think and I have to credit, Aaron Ross has been on the show a couple of times, one of the authors of Predictable Revenue. And his big thing is basically split the sales process up into different chunks and have different people do different parts of it based on their strengths. Exactly. Like you’re saying, there’s a different skill set that you need for the initial telesales versus the final presentation. Why are you trying to have one person master both of them?

That’s not going to work. And a lot of cases and it’s kind of like, you know, we we wouldn’t expect one basketball player to play center and point guard at the same time or whatever the proper analogy is, we wouldn’t expect them to be striker and goalkeeper at the same time, even though they’re both football players or basketball players or whatever. But we kind of lump all these salespeople together and expect that they’re all going to have exactly the same skills and outputs.

That’s such a great analogy. And and what’s interesting is from a sense that I can only talk about what we what we call football here, you call it soccer and stuff, but you’ll also find that your center forward in one team hub and the center board and another team that both sent forwards. But they’ll do the job differently for the both forwards and they’ll be different.

And I think that’s another thing as well, that we we sometimes we we drive and we drive out the individuality from selling.

And what I notice about really great salespeople, there’s almost a little quirk. There’s also a little bit of personality that’s a little bit of pride that they bring to the sale. You know, that little bit of diamond in the rough, that’s that that’s their thing that they bring to it. And that’s something to be encouraged. I think, you know, if you’re a sports person, that special turn, special pass, you make all that special quirk or not a celebration because that’s not great.

But the piece you do that enables that that thing that you do. And I think it’s to say, you know, you’ll find salespeople who make up great turns of phrase. You have some people who are brilliant at the way they can manipulate, sell product so they can they can actually demonstrate things that really bring things to life in a different sort of way.

I remember doing the presentation quite recently to people and I say that all actually bored, rigid, bored, senseless, because they had a whole day of pictures from other training companies. So I walked in and said, you look really bored. And they said, we are. I said, oh, well, what what do we talk about then? And said, well, tell us how you know. Tell us what you’re about to ask. How many slides have you seen today and they said “loads”.

Let’s not go inyo slides– and you see what I mean. That’s something I can do because I was a performer. That’s my bit. Not everybody can do that. Some people are much better at having a brilliant slide deck and working in a really innovative way.

Very strong. It’s very logical, very organized, that’s not my skill, so I find I always go on last if I possibly can, because I know they’ll be bored and tired. So I could be different because actually, what’s the point of me going in the middle of the day?

Because I’d be competing with the highly efficient engines and I’ll just look like a shambolic mess. And so so if you know you’re a certain thing and that’s your superpower, then you have to contort the context to make your superpower come to life. Sometimes I don’t think think enough about what you know. We don’t manage the context around your sales pitch.

if I’m understanding this correctly, part of sales and marketing is sorting the market so that you’re talking to the people who are most likely to buy. You don’t just want to hammer everybody over the head and tell the English people to buy a Renault. You call the French people and tell them to buy a Renault. In the same token, we want to put our salespeople in the right context so that they can be successful. And someone like the guy you passed over could be a great closer, terrible at telesales. Someone else might be the opposite. We want to make sure that we’ve put the right people in the right place so they can be successful for us.

Someone much wiser than me I used to work for– used to say that the skill in sales. No, no, you don’t want to sell to rather than who you do want to sell it. And because of that screening out process is really important. So you’re not wasting your time dealing with people that you don’t or can’t or shouldn’t be selling to. And sometimes they have the easiest sales. And that’s the challenge. Isn’t that?

Yeah, that’s a great point. It’s something I always ask people because whenever I asked folks whether they’re a client of mine or they’re just somebody, I meet a well, you know, who are you looking for in the definition they give is almost always too broad initially. And so I said, well, how do I know if they meet that high level criteria? Is there something in there that’s going to show that they’re actually going to waste your time?

And then usually there is something very specific. They say, oh, yeah, you know, actually if whatever, then they’re going to end up doing it themselves or they’re going to end up going with this competitor. We always fight. I’m like, well, why didn’t you mention that up front? Right. It wasn’t really part of their thinking until pressed on it. We don’t we don’t like to think that we’re contracting our market, which I suppose is another psychological thing that you probably have many things to say about the.

I think I think I think that’s really true to what you’re saying there. And I think we don’t manage our context enough. We don’t figure out who we want to sell to. And and we’ve got to think both parts. We’ve also got to think about them. We have to realize that sometimes our agenda is more important to us than it is to them. So actually, how do we make our agenda more important to them than is so that, you know, they’re foaming at the mouth with excitement to talk to us rather than the way we do that?

Well, you see, that’s important. And the trouble you say, and I think sometimes we forget that sales and marketing are sisters in the same family and we see yeah, really interesting. When you look at organizations, you have this measure called return on sales and sales. People were saying it for me, the only job marketing is to generate leads and so on. And then you measure marketing on leads, not not on sales, because it’s the job of sales people to convert.

And while the sales people say that the wrong leads and say how can they be the wrong needs, there are other people buying today or later. So that’s really interesting is that that changes the mindset of we’re thinking about leads and how we’re thinking about conversions, because the same we’ve got plenty of leads now. You’ve got to decide that you want something and that’s based on doing some quality qualification. Of course, it depends on the market you’re selling in.

If you’re in a retail market where you’ve been flooded with people coming in every single day, you quickly learn that people like you want to sell to. And he’ll make some generalizations if you make some mistakes and you have to challenge them. So you have to keep challenging yourself. But in the big business context, that doesn’t work the same sort of way. So it is all contextually driven that actually.

So that’s the take. The point. The point about is that we have to see marketing and sales differently, each of us playing our respective parts. And it’s for sales to get better at the conversion rather than saying we’re playing blaming marketing because of the wrong leads all the time.

OK, that makes a lot of sense. Now, what would how do we apply all this? If you’ve got a very small firm, maybe even maybe even a single professional services person who is doing the sales and marketing themselves or most of it, but also doing a lot of the delivery work, what should they take away from this? Because it’s probably too late for them to pretend that the sales isn’t hard.

Well, they don’t have to they don’t have to be convinced that sales it’s hot. Well, the first thing I say is if you’re working in a small company, actually, most of your time should be spent on marketing because actually figuring out who it is you want to sell to, how are you going to sell to them who these people are? How are you going to network and how are you going to get in front of them? Comes away before how we’re going to sell to them.

And then we say, OK, so so actually what we probably want to do in a small business is we want to create an inbound lead engine in some way, shape or form. And there’s lots of different ways of doing that. You can pay our agents, you can use sales agents, you can use up marketing use. I think you can get things coming in. You can join procurement agencies. You can go to trade shows. Trade shows are great for, really sharpening your teeth in the sales process, because actually people want to talk to the nerd because they don’t want they want to talk to the you know, the the BS salesperson quotes, I’m going to think is if they want to talk to the person who does the work so you can see you right there. And then the thing that you’re going to do when you go on a sales call, if you will, in your own firm, is you’re going to go to a lead where someone has said, I’d like to see you.

And so you’re going along and saying, OK, and you’ll sit down and say, hey, I’m not the salesperson. You forgive me because I’m going to make all the mistakes the salesperson wouldn’t make and they’re going to go out halelujah, you’re not a salesperson, right? So we can trust what you’re saying. And so you see, it’s about turning it’s about making the contacts work. It’s about taking the thing that you say sell side and say, well, check it upside down. You think sales is hard? Other people think it sounds cheesy. So work with those people, find those.

So basically, again, play back to your strengths of, gosh, I suck at sales. Don’t worry, I’m not a salesperson. Let’s just talk about your problem.

Yeah, exactly. You know, go and because especially if you’re a very nerdy and you’re selling the computer coding something, you’re going to be selling to the complete computer coding people. Aren’t you going to be selling to an HR person? So actually, you know, your ability to talk about the nuts and bolts of programming and kernals and blah, I’ve run out technology. But the person who you scientist will be fascinated by that. Which line of code and what picture it is, what color it is, you know, should write this. You know, you’re forgetting it all today. What would broadly doing is we’re usually selling to other experts. And I think we’ve forgotten that because that unless you’re really doing a huge, huge, huge business to business sales and you’re selling to procurement, normally when you’re setting up your own business, you sell to people like you.

You’re selling to people who would like to be like you as well.

They’re often looking at you and thinking, well, I quite like to start my own firm in the future. And you forget that. And we’re thinking to myself, I’m selling to someone in the future who might be a colleague. I’m selling to someone who might be an employee.

So I think this all makes a lot of sense and hopefully it’s really helpful for people. But there’s still going to be a bunch of rejection involved, right? That’s just the nature of the game. It’s never one hundred percent kind of thing. And you mentioned earlier resilience. And you have a podcast on resilience. How to should people think about maintaining their resilience in the face of something that is especially if you’ve got a perfectionist mindset, you’re an architect, right?100 percent of your building should stand up, but nowhere near a hundred percent of your sales cycles are going to close. How do you think about this? Appropriately and healthily and productively.

So that’s a great question. I’m glad you brought perfectionists into it, because their the bane of everybody’s lives and you need to be a perfectionist when you’re an architect. You don’t need to be a perfectionist, a salesperson unless you’re doing what’s OK. And what you have to say is what’s good enough?

I’m going to do we bought a new product, OK? I’m an experienced salesperson at a sixty two meetings. Didn’t get a single deal. Not one– sixty two meetings. That was a hell of a lot of work, a lot of effort. And at the end of our set, that’s been a good return because I’ve been to market research really because sales and market research come together. Sometimes you have to flip that number. You have to say what’s good to know because it’s just data.

And if you’re if you’re going along to a meeting and you’re not closing, you find out why not actually makes things better the next time round. That’s a great point. People people don’t realize this is the self awareness piece. No meeting is a failure because you’re learning something all the time that was really that kind of mindset.

That shift was helpful for me to instead of saying I’m trying to close this business on this call, it was I’m first of all, I’m going to pick up the phone and make the call. And secondly, I’m going to learn stuff. Yeah. Worst case scenario, I get voicemail. Right. That’s the worst thing. And otherwise, I’m going to learn something valuable.

You know, years ago, there used to be a program called Spin

Spin has been mentioned on previous episodes.

Spin this great

Neil Rackem. Right?

Very, very good. Simple sales idea. But what it says is not at the end of every meeting, there should be a progression. And this is the thing for the architect, the perfectionist to think about. So you thinking, what is the progression? If the progression is the I don’t need to waste any time on this on the street anymore because it’s a it’s a it’s a it’s a boost for me, then that’s a progression because now I to focus my time on something else.

Right.

So resilient. You said that the whole point of resilience is about getting over yourself. It’s about stopping overthinking. It’s about stopping the catastrophization. It’s about saying that you have to show your friend, your guy Aaron

Aaron Ross,

I’m sure he’ll talk about this idea that in in any sales funnel, if you’re going to have a hundred, if you’re going to have 100 calls to have a proposal to every 10 proposals, 100 calls, you need to you need to stop failing.

You need to get ninety those wrong to get through them, to get to the ones that worked. So actually fell into a road on the path that sounds so good and so cheesy. Sadly, it’s true. What does. You have to be sad, and I think that’s part of what you’re saying, right, that that we don’t have to think of it as rejection. We’re just doing the work, just stuff. It’s certainly rejection if you choose to see it as a rejection.

But actually, the issue with rejection is rejection is good for you because rejection is about coming back and having accountability to learn from that. If you go off and have to say, you know, I need to go home and stop down in the cupboard somewhere and cry for a couple of hours and do it in the wrong child, in which case concentrate and do what you do. Well, it brings in some people around you. And there’s no shame.

There’s no I mean, most when when I work for venture capitalists or people that fund small companies rather than PE companies, they nearly always say that they use the principle of what was called the peanut entrepreneur. I don’t know if you’ve ever come across that book. No recommend it to anybody setting up their own business. And they said that most people start with some sort of CEO and then have four cornerstones in your business. Who should be the best of the best that if you can if you’re funded so you can afford to buy these one person’s already one person’s operations, one person’s finance and accounting.

And guess what the other line is says marketing. It’s a thing. It’s a thing. And the job of the CEO and sometimes the initial innovator entrepreneur has to be that CEO, someone who can do bits of everything, but not well enough is anybody who will be one of the four cornerstones that each of those four cornerstones takes their area away and grows that next. Twenty people. And that’s how you build an organization. It’s the classic way of building, particularly a funded, particularly an IT organization because of the R&D case, which actually then says that if you’re the geek, sometimes you know what?

You shouldn’t be out selling until you’re taken out by the salesperson. Right. So it’s a nice way of thinking about things, but when you’re on your own, you’ve got to do it all yourself, but then outsource the bits that you can’t solve. So, for example, you know, I’m going to a networking meeting tomorrow and I’ve found an excuse to be able to stand up and say, hey, I’m looking, guess what? I’m starting something new.

It’s going to be this, this, this, this, this, this and this. And I’m looking for people to be suppliers. So I’ve gone there ostensibly to ask the people to come and get me services. But of course, what I’m doing is I’m telling them all by my great new thing. I’m going to go, wow, that sounds great. So that’s just talking to people you seem to in it’s about managing the context.

And that’s something that most people who are experts are very happy to talk about. The thing that they’re expert.

Exactly. With passion. With that, I mean, the last time I was at the same network meeting, someone talked about just stood up and talked about they built salad farms that were environmentally non carbon and they didn’t have any sort of carbon footprint and salads very ineffective as a I don’t know if you know about salad in the UK, just in the US said that green stuff that you put in your burgers. And so it was that naughty. I shouldn’t have said that, should I?

You know, here in Austin, there’s there’s more salad than you shake a stick at.

I was sorry that my terrible English sense of humor and I’ve been on the best behavior so far. But the point was, this person is this . She had a really long, fancy job description. She just talked about her stuff. She just talked about stuff for ten minutes. And at the end of all of us gripped and we were learning about salad.

Salad, I mean, what is the world’s most boring subject and how we have a salad without a carbon footprint? But it was just listening to a technologist talk about technology and you could there’s no selling going on. She just talked and it was just and her passion was a good touch, was a professional speaker. There were none of the tricks. There was none of the glitz was not the dancing. There was none of that. Hey, hey, hey. Jazz hands. It was just an expert talking and it was riveting. And I think people forget that.

That’s a great point. And I think that’s a great place to wrap it up, because I feel like that’s the thing that so many people who say sales is hard, gosh, it’s terrible. They can do that. They can talk about what they care about and what they love. And people listening will hear that come through. Yeah. Well, Russell, thank you so much for having a cup of tea with me and putting up with me while I drink my wine and for sharing your wisdom.

And I hope you have a great visit to Dallas when you come here.

Cheers. Thanks for listening, if you have a friend who would benefit from this episode, please pass the word along, have a friend who wouldn’t benefit but you haven’t talked to in a while. Give them a call. iTunes reviews are great to get the word out and help me create the show that’s most useful to you. And if you’re frustrated with your sales and marketing process or lack thereof, check out Mimiran the serum for people who hate selling until next time.

The Wine

Russell is a teetotaler, so he was literally drinking tea (Lady Jane). While I enjoyed some Monte Antico, an Italian Tuscan red blend with Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. As a former professional musician, he drank too much. Then, he cut out alcohol, bread, potatoes, and cheese. They were all “trigger foods”. He used to eat a pound of cheese for breakfast. He lost 12 stone (168 pounds). He discovered that he could cut things out, but he couldn’t do them in moderation.


Where to find Dr. Russell Thackeray…

Other books mentioned:

Spin Selling, by Neil Rackam

Predictable Revenue, Aaron Ross & Marylou Tyler

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com, the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”, (Mimiran also makes it easy to track and grow referrals). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

Want a way to make sales and marketing fun, without being “salesy”? Try Mimiran, the CRM for people who hate “selling”.


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054: David Priemer on how to sell the way you buy

David Priemer, author Sell the Way You Buy

David Priemer was supposed to be a chemical engineer, not a sales guru, but he found that the rules and connections he loved in science also applied in sales. After he fell into the start up world, and then his firm got acquired by Salesforce, he started thinking more about the disconnect between how people typically sell, and how we like to buy. This led to his book “Sell the Way You Buy”, and him being a great guest for this podcast.

Listen (or read the transcript below) to David dishes on:

  • Why we don’t buy solutions (and what we do buy).
  • Polarize the market to avoid the sea of sameness. People connect with your stories and the feelings they invoke, not product features (even for seemingly unemotional B2B purchases). Whatever you provide, it’s not for everyone.
    • (David talks about how his previous company offered performance review software for people who hate performance reviews, similar to how I created a CRM for people who hate selling.)
  • Help buyers make decisions more easily– sometimes the flood of information we have now makes it harder to figure out what to do.
  • This information means there’s a battle for your customers’ and prospects’ attention. Do some research and and value. Don’t just commit “drive-by selling”.
  • Get into the mind of the buyer and figure out what percentage of the time your solution is “objectively” the best one they could buy. It’s not important what the number is, but that you understand what’s really driving buying decisions. (For example, a web developer might target solopreneurs with a message like “I understand you have better things to do with your time than update your website.” There might be no difference between this developer’s offering and everyone else’s, but there’s the sense that they get me.)
  • The experience is the product.
  • Do “mindful discovery”– make sure prospects understand why answering your questions helps them get what they want, not just you.
  • Order questions by starting with a quantitative question (“what percent of your reps made quota?”), followed by subjective questions (“how do you feel about your sales team overall?”).

Most importantly, sell the way you buy. Use tactics that you want other people to use with you. Forget the “Cobra Kai” tactics.

054 David Priemer teaches you to sell the way you buy.mp3 – powered by Happy Scribe

Hi Reuben Swartz here your host and chief nerd welcome to Sales for Nerds. I try to distill years of struggling with sales and marketing so you can learn the easy way. Plus get the scoop from other folks who have accidentally ended up in sales and learned that it doesn’t have to suck.

Now, as a software person who hated conventional CRMs, I ended up creating my own for folks like me in professional services who would rather be doing client work than sales and marketing.

It’s got a whole new take on lead magnets to the way to think about conversations and referrals, proposal automation, e-signature. And if you’re the only one in your company selling or maybe the only person in your company, it’s got features so you don’t feel so alone. Start your free trial at www.mimiran.com.

That’s M-I-M-I-R-A-N dot com. And even if you’re not looking for a CRM, you’ll find proposal templates, checklists and more to help you grow your business. Now let’s get to it today.

I’m super excited to have with me David Priemer. He is the author of Sell the Way You Buy, which just sounds like the kind of sells book you actually want to read. Congratulations on that. He’s got a chemical engineering degree and actually started his career with test tubes and differential equations. And then he almost got a sales job at IBM and didn’t and he kind of fell into the startup world, went through, I believe, four different start ups, three of which got acquired. Am I getting that right? You can correct me now. It’s great. And then one of his startups was acquired by Salesforce.

He became a sales leader at Salesforce, which led him to start Cerebral Selling and writing Sell the way you Buy. David, welcome to Sales for Nerds.

Oh, thanks for having me here, Reuben. It’s great to be here.

Excellent. What do you have in your glass?

You know, as I said, we’re we’re in isolation mode here, so I’ve amped up my you think alcohol content, but no, I’ve amped up my my water hydration content. I’m just drinking lemon water today.

That’s that’s got a lot of lemon slices in there. I do a slice of lemon lemon water. This is lemon juice. Well, we’re recording late in the day.

And so what, what tends to put a couple of slices in and then I ran out of water and then I add more water, I add more lemon slices, but I don’t take the old ones out. And then I guess by the end of the day, I just have like a full lemon sitting in a glass with no water.

OK, awesome.

And I’ve got some Châteaux Labadie Bordeaux from Médoc. And this is a merlot driven blend. And I meant to do a bunch of research on Medoc and the blends and the percentages and whatnot before we got on. And I said I’m just going to tell people it’s delicious. And as usual on this show, it’s probably one of those things that I got at Costco for like fifteen bucks. Cheers and welcome.

Well, I think you’ve already done the first lesson of selling, which is as you’ve taken something, you know, that you got at Costco and you made it sound really enticing and very, very elaborate. So that’s lesson number one.

Good for you. All right. Go to Costco, resell wine. You said that’s.

So how did you go from chemical engineering to. I’m writing a book about how to do sales the right way, if you can get that sat down to five or ten seconds.

Yeah, my goodness. Well, you know, sales and engineering are are similar because in engineering there’s like systems and practices and laws and rules and equations that govern how things work.

And it’s not that selling is all science by any stretch. There’s definitely a lot of art to it, but there are rules and there are systems. And so I found that kind of making that transition. I was able to kind of take that very call like analytical, scientific approach to to, you know, my engineering career, being in academia and then translated into the sales world, which, by the way, I got thrust and thrust into you by accident like everyone.

And no one no one purposely makes that transition. But that’s how it happened for me and fell in love with fell in love from there.

You know, it’s funny, you talk about the rules and systems as being the part of engineering that applies to sales. And that’s maybe the part that I’ve always struggled with. The part that I find is the bridge is it’s about problem solving. Right? When you have an engineering problem, you’re trying to solve that in sales. You’re typically trying to solve some kind of business problem. And so I can think of it as well. They’re both problem solving.

What kind of rules did you take from the engineering world into the sales world?

Well, it’s interesting. It’s it’s true that the goal of a buyer is to hopefully solve a problem, or at least that’s the that’s the sense we have a problem when we, like, seek solutions to those problems. There’s people who sell those solutions.

But what I found over the course of time is that we actually don’t buy solutions. I think that’s one of the biggest misnomers. We do not buy solutions to problems we have.

We buy one thing first and foremost, which is feelings in everything that we buy. I don’t care whether it’s be to be buying a service, ordering something for lunch. And I think that great example you talking about systems and rules. So you’re talking about wine. Hey, now, one of the things I talk a lot about is that everything that you say about your product can either increase or diminish its value and think about like, what’s the cost of a bottle of coke?

How much would you pay for a bottle of Coke? What if I were to ask you, how much is a bottle of Coke? How much are you willing to pay for?

That depends if you’re at the grocery store or the ballpark 100 degree day. Right.

There you go. So there’s there’s this element of like, OK, what’s the. Environment, maybe if I’m at an airport or a sporting event, like the value of the Coke is different, but like what if I started telling you like a story know, like our our researchers spent, you know, like, let’s say I’m trying to sell you a bottle of water.

You can go buy a bottle of water at Costco for twenty five cents. But if I told you this, this unique bottle of artesian water was was plucked from like the mountain tops in Fiji and carefully in small batches. Now, all of a sudden, I’m just I’m talking about this water. But all of a sudden now in your mind, you’re thinking, oh, my gosh, this water is like super valuable. And so, like, back to your Costco wine, you can start wrapping an amazing story around that.

And at the end of the day, people aren’t buying the wine. They’re not buying the water. They’re buying the story and the value you’ve created around that product. And it’s no different. So there’s there’s certainly an art to telling that story.

But the idea at the end of the day that we’re buying solutions, I feel is a misnomer. We buy feelings at the end of the day and there’s still rules that govern how those feelings can be bought and sold.

So some folks listening are gonna say, that’s great. I understand how that works if I’m buying wine or buying water. But I deal with these really hard nosed business people and they have spreadsheets and they enter numbers and they tell me I’m too expensive and these people don’t even have feelings.

So. Right.

What do we say to those people? Are they right or their feelings that maybe we’re just missing?

You ever hear the phrase no one got no one ever got fired for buying IBM, right? Yes. What do you think that means? That means people feel secure when they buy IBM, even if everything goes sideways and it’s a disaster, they can’t get fired.

Yeah, or even if that’s true and even if IBM is not the best solution for them. Right. Like, I won’t get fired. So, like what you’re saying in the in the hardest news organizations, when people are biasing towards safety and security and established vendors, those are feelings that has nothing to do with the ability of that solution to solve the problem. You know, it’s a proxy for it. But there could be, let’s say, for example, a tiny startup of five people who has a much better solution to solve your problem.

But if you get it wrong, you’re going to get fired. Right. So now you’re buying feelings.

So a lot of the folks listening to this are more likely to be part of the five person startup than IBM. What are they say to that person or are they just in the wrong room and they should get out? Well, you know, it’s funny.

So as you mentioned, I’ve done for startups in my time over the last 20 years, and I love the startup environment. I just love building things. I almost love the uncertainty a little bit. I love, you know, I love the agility.

And so one of the tactics I talk about in the book, and this is like an objection now we’re getting into like, objection handling. Someone says, you know, Reuben, I love your solution, but I’m just a little wary about working with a company that’s like five people in a garage somewhere.

Right. So now there’s lots of different ways you can respond. And one of the way so I would I would put a couple of things to you. Number one you actually want customers that align with your vision, with your way of doing business.

And so if someone wants IBM, then they’re not a good fit to buy you and you probably should not invest the time to convince them that they are right. So one of the ways you can kind of separate out those customers is to say, look, hey, look, you know, we’re not for everyone. Certainly, you know, it’s interesting.

A lot of our customers love working with us because we’re a five person agile startup because they have access to our product roadmap, our executive team. They can speak to us whenever they want and they love that. Right.

And you’re part of that core and you’re going to love working with us. Right. And so, again, we’re not solving world peace here. But that’s one way it’s I call this turn weakness into strength. You kind of challenge the customer, but you also align them with the kinds of customers that will be most successful with your solution.

And I forget the phrase you use in the book, but you kind of recommend that you can pick a fight with somebody. Right, and make people come down on one side or the other. Either you’re out of our camp and we shouldn’t waste time with you because you need IBM or, hey, you should come over here and hang out with us because we’re not beige and boring like IBM.

It’s true. So I call it polarization. Right. And so the idea is when someone asks you what you do and this is actually it’s not just when you’re handling objections, but even when, you know, let’s say, for example, some you meet someone like what do you do?

And you say, I don’t know, I train salespeople and they smile and they say, that’s nice. And they just go on with their day.

Because the reality is, whatever it is you do, there is a million people that do what you do. Right. And to your customers, you all just kind of sound the same. So one of the ways you breaking out of what I call that sea of sameness is to say something that’s a bit more polarizing, a little different. Right. Something that makes your customer decide whether or not they’re on your side of that argument or another person’s side.

So the example I give and I give in the book, my third startup, this is the one that was acquired by Salesforce. We were a basically a performance review platform for companies that hated performance reviews. Right. So for Millennial, like no one loves, I’m not here to crap on performance reviews, but that’s what we did.

We picked an enemy and our enemy was performance reviews. We said, look, performance, you suck. The data, like all the data coming out of companies, is saying that people use the word hate to describe performance reviews.

So if you love feedback, but you hate performance reviews, we should talk. And and in anything that I just said to you now, I didn’t. And I haven’t even explained what the software actually did.

But if you love feedback or your people love feedback and they hate performance reviews, you’re going to lean in and say, tell me more, because no one’s saying that and I’m invoking your enemy. So these are just really simple ways of getting customers onside with these polarizing messages.

As funny, you say that because my CRM tool is the CRM for people who hate selling. Right. Like who wants a CRM? If you hate selling well, the people who are like, gosh, I hate selling, tell me more. That’s the whole point of that. I mean, that’s it’s all true.It’s all authentic, just like your performance review software was. But but it’s not you’re not describing everything, but you’re sort of letting people associate or disassociate tribally based on what you’re telling them you’re about, right? That’s right.

You know, the idea is that whatever service you provide, you’re not for everyone, OK? You have some very happy customers that align with your mission and values and then some that don’t. And ask yourself what would happen if you started selling to the wrong kinds of customers, like what would happen to your business, to your your pipeline, your cost, your reputation. So the idea is we always want customers that align with what we do. And so the best way to do that oftentimes is to put out like that enemy to help your customers kind of gravitate.

But I totally hear what you’re saying. I actually have a blog post on my website. Called How to sell if you hate selling, that’s probably very relevant because you know a lot of entrepreneurs now this is an interesting thing. So we talked to earlier, one of my favorite sales books is Dan Pink’s To Sell is Human. And he asked people in that book, he said, When I use the word sales are selling, what’s the first word that comes to mind?

And now you don’t have to like you’re talking to the guy here. If you go on my website, the first piece of copy it says is, do you ever wonder why you don’t like talking to salespeople? Right.

And my website is for salespeople. Why would I say that? It’s because I bet that most people don’t like talking to salespeople, including salespeople. And Dan Pink proved that out in his book. And so there’s a lot of entrepreneurs. He talks about this like a lot of entrepreneurs who don’t classify themselves as salespeople but have to do selling in their job. And so the thing is, well, how do you overcome that? That’s a great point.

And I mean, whether or not there’s sales in your title, if you own a small business sales is your responsibility. And even if you spend all day in engineering meetings, there’s a certain amount of persuasion that has to go on if you’re going to do your job effectively. And you’re right, we’ve got all these, I think in some ways deserved bad connotations around selling because we hate being sold.

We like to buy. We want someone to help us buy. And I think in the old days, the salesperson was the repository of information and taking your order, stuff that you couldn’t do on your own. Now we can do all that on our own. And my view of selling is it’s helping us solve a problem that we can’t fix on our own. Right. Okay. So if we can do it on our own, we don’t need the salesperson.

What it’s like when I call my my telco because my home Internet isn’t working and they try to deflect me by saying, you know, a lot of common problems can be rebooted by fixing fix, by rebooting your router and by doing this.

And so what they’re trying to, like, move me out of their process.

And I keep thinking to myself, I wouldn’t be calling you if I if all those things weren’t the case. Right. But, yes, there’s there’s a lot of that where where I wouldn’t be having to engage with a salesperson if I could just do it myself, like if I could just go online and do the research and figure it out and maybe I could. What actually happens, like what the research shows is that because there’s so much choice now, let’s say you want to go online, you want to book a vacation or a flight or whatever it is.

So you say, I want to go to the Caribbean.

Gosh I want to do that right now,

I know it seems like a pipe dream. I want to leave my house now, but so you want to book a vacation. So you go online and say, I want to go to the Caribbean. You do a search and like a million resorts come up and now you’re thinking to yourself, I don’t know which one to pick, OK? They all look like they got four point three stars, which is OK.

And now I start reading the reviews and I start looking at the one star reviews first to see what people hate because I really I’m drawn to that. And then what happens is like an hour, two hours later, I’m like, I don’t know what to do, you know, I don’t, you know. And so what happens is what they refer to as purchase. Like the ease with which I’m able to make my decision is actually compromise. It’s very hard for me to make a decision.

And then when I do, I’m not sure if I made the right one right. And that’s kind of like the old school way of selling.

So you’re right, the purpose of the salesperson is to help the customer kind of work through the decision. But, you know, when you’re when you’re on TripAdvisor, there’s no salesperson there. Right.

And so it’s incumbent upon, let’s say if I was the salesperson for these resorts or even a travel agent. Right. Imagine then I start hitting you up and I say, you know, Reuben, I’m a travel agent. I specialize in working with people who want to go on vacation but are completely bewildered. But I by all the reviews they see online, am I right right now?

I’m not even telling you what my services are, but I’m now I’m talking about the enemy, which is your frustration, researching things online. So anyways, it’s a full circle. These are the all the information that we have access to is actually, in many ways, hurting us.

When there’s a chapter in your book called The Battle for Customer Attention, which I think is so important, and you talk about how we all get these stupid calls and emails and LinkedIn requests that are, to borrow another one of your great phrases, Cobra Kai tactics right there, like slam into, you know, mercy. We don’t care about you. We’re trying to go somewhere. Get out of my way. What should people be doing to get people’s attention? Because if we can’t get people’s attention, we can’t really do much, right? Yeah.

I mean, there’s lots of things and some of it we’ve already spoken about, like talking about the enemy. Right. Because people are so desensitized about being pitched on products and features and what’s new. And eight-Dot-0 like no one cares what’s new in 8.0, but they care about like their enemies, some of the problems that they’re solving. So lead with the problem first and foremost. One of the other things I talk about in the battle for customer attention is just like try using different media.

I mean, people are used to picking up the phone and calling, which is great emails. Great LinkedIn is great. But I’ll tell you, like I get a million emails a day and million LinkedIn invites and everyone just sounds the same. So I remember there was one time in my last VP role where I had a BDR reach out. To me, this is like a business development rep who sent me a letter in the mail and like a handwritten note.

And he said in the note, he said, you know, I think nowadays people don’t respond to voice mails, but the jury’s still out on handwritten notes. And I still to this day, I still remember it because and I got back to him and that’s the beauty, is that if you do it the right way, try, you know, try video calls, write video has a much higher open rate because I waste time watching cat videos on Instagram all day.

But like, I’ll watch Reuben for 60 seconds, make a fool of himself on a video. Right. So it’s a video LinkedIn voice, snail mail. All of the stuff is unique and differentiated. And even if even if they don’t buy your solution in the end, most time they’re going to get back to you because they appreciate the effort you put in.

So other than mixing up the media. What about the actual content of the message itself? Yeah, so the key is a number one, not just two things, not to sound the same as everyone else.

So if I was starting a financial services firm and I said, you know, Priemer Financial, we specialize in providing world class service at very low look like I’m laughing as I’m saying it, like no one’s going to argue that that’s a good thing.

But you just sound the same as everyone else. And I actually I told this guy today on LinkedIn, I get maybe a handful of LinkedIn messages a day saying, hey, David, we specialize in lead generation and we have a unique proprietary method to get you high quality leads. You know, is it worth a chat? And I and I actually engage with these people because I feel it’s partially my duty because, you know, back to the Cobra Kai tactics, if you’re just out there, if salespeople are continuing to be out there and using these, like, horrible old school generic tactics, it’s going to make it really hard.

They’re going to ruin it for everyone.

They’re going to make it really hard for the good salespeople to get their attention. So the first thing is don’t sound the same as everyone else. Right? Lead with the problem. And and one of the other things they talk about is reciprocity, like add some kind of value.

Show me that you did a little bit of research into what I what I did. I actually wrote an article a couple of weeks ago was called Do Your Homework three scientifically proven reasons why it makes sense to do your research before you reach out. And and oftentimes you get these generic outreaches.

And so you talk about how to get people’s attention, do a little bit of research. If I cited a recent thing that you wrote or the city that you live in, or even better yet, like I say, I noticed something on your website. I’ll tell you, like when people find, like, typos in my blog post and they reach out to me, like I feel indebted to them. Right. And so all of these things are are not easy to do, meaning they require efforts.

You can’t be lazy. But the extra effort you put into personalized lead with the enemy, reciprocity, add value, try different medium are all amazing ingredients to help you get your customers attention.

So you’re saying actually try to be helpful to people?

It’s a novel idea as well, and I don’t think it’s necessarily novel, but it’s just like the volume of crap can always be higher than the volume of quality stuff.

And so we’re inundated with these automated messages and we don’t get the handwritten card very much. We don’t get the person saying, hey, there’s a typo in your blog on page three or whatever, very much. But those people are there. They’re just sort of like subsumed in our consciousness because there’s so much B.S. out there. That’s my theory.

No, it’s it’s true. There’s a lot of people who practice, drive by selling. I actually I don’t blame them. You know, I don’t think these are bad people. They have families. They play sports. They have friends like everyone else. But they just go out and someone obviously told them to go run these tactics, which are are ineffective and serve to damage their personal and corporate brand when they use them.

So a little bit of effort and actually I mean back at Salesforce, we would we would use kind of even for our smallest customers, a tiering model. So, yeah, I understand you can’t put the same amount of effort into every single person you reach out to. So take a look at the people who you could potentially reach out to and tier them. So here’s my tier one customers that I’m going to spend more time customizing the message because I know they’re right, my sweet spot all the way down to kind of, you know, tier three or four where I might use something that’s a bit more generic in the hopes that, all right, maybe I pull something back into the net.

That’s a great point. And one of my favorite quotes that actually I got from my guest on this podcast, Maura Thomas, who’s also a friend and customer of mine, but she cites this guy, Herbert Simon, who wrote, “What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” And this was like in the 70s that he wrote that. And it’s like that just that quote helps me make sense of so much of the world today, because that’s what’s going on. And instead of doing what you’re recommending of, hey, it’s like let me actually give somebody something that that’s going to resonate with them and show that I’m worth their attention. It’s like, well, let me press this button and just throw more books out there and see what sticks.

Yeah, no, I mean, that’s that’s a recipe for failure for sure.

You talk about getting into the mind of the buyer and a magical question. Let’s let’s talk about the magical question. That sounds great.

Yeah. Magical question is this not I’ll phrase it. And so I call this the solution fit paradox. Right. This idea that people buy the best thing for them at the end of the day. And the magical question, let me let me phrase it like this. If I were to ask you to write down maybe your listeners as you’re listening to this, if I were to ask you to write down everything that you ate for lunch in the last month, hey, now, I told you I’m going to take that list.

I’m going to give it to your doctor. I’m going to ask your doctor, what percentage of the time did this person eat the best thing for them for lunch? And I say best as defined by calorically food groups, portion size, these kinds of things. What what percentage might you come back with?

Over a month. Yeah, the best. How, how, how how rigorous are we being about the best?

The best, like the number one thing, right? Like the top 10 percent of what you could have eaten.

For me, I would say 75 percent of the time.

That’s good.

I’m pretty healthy for lunch. That’s right.

And you know what? I think some of us, now that we’re at home and away from food courts and all these kinds of things are being a little healthy. But I know that when I ask this question, I’m sure some of your listeners are kind of cranking on it. Sometimes people say five, 10, 20 percent. Sometimes people laugh and they say, can I pick like a negative number? Right. Right.

And so here’s so this is the magical question.

The magical question is what percentage of the time when your customers buy your solution, would you say that they bought the best solution for them? Now, again, I want you to think about you’re the doctor, OK? You’re your objective. You work for Deloitte. You’re auditing this decision. You have no no horse in this race. You don’t care about the customer. You don’t care about the vendor. You’re just there to say, hey, look, did they make the best decision?

And oftentimes when you think about that, like even think when even when a customer bought your solution, what percentage of the time? Like, I go into a menswear store to buy a sports jacket, I leave with a sports jacket. What if there is like, you know, I don’t know who the Mecca in fashion is, but like if they said, would David buy the best sports jacket for him out of the spectrum of sports jackets, you could have gotten like what?

What what percentage of the time? The percentage is low, OK?

The percentage is low.

And even when we talk about our solutions, I don’t care what you what you sell, you sell software, you sell a service, you’re a vendor of some kind. Doesn’t matter what percentage of the time it’s it’s low. Right. And so this question like, so then why do people make those investments and solutions that are not the best fit for them? And that comes back to this question of like feelings and value, which are discretionary and subjective.

They’re not objective value and ROI.

They are not the same thing. So that’s the magical question is to really think about like, how often do people, when they choose your solutions, they make the best decision. And yet they were quite happy with the decision they may like I ask people about the lunch question and I said, okay, so maybe you you were happy fifty percent of the time. Twenty percent, whatever it is. Right. But the rest of the time when you agree and admit that you made the not the best decision, were you angry like were you upset, were you cursing yourself for the rest of the day.

Probably not. Right. Like you ordered that, you know, that that cheeseburger at the end of a long day because that’s what you want. You felt like it. You’d said I deserve a nice glass of Costco wine, whatever it is.

Right. That’s what you felt like. And so this idea like so when your customers are not necessarily making the most optimal decisions for them, what are they basing it on? Feelings. OK, well, what are those feelings?

And start peeling that back so you can understand how you can start selling to them along those emotional pathways.

That’s actually in large part what sell the way you buy is all about.

So what percentage should you be getting? Should it be one hundred should if it’s one hundred, are you being too narrow? Is it does it matter?

No, there’s no there’s no target. And in fact that if you said thirty percent of the time your customers are making the best decision for them, I’d say then that’s great. It means that 70 percent of the time you’re selling them based on your feelings and emotion and and subjective feelings of value. So we’re actually not trying to improve that number or diminish that number. We’re trying to understand this idea that people aren’t buying the best thing for them. Like when you go out and let’s say, for example, you want to buy a coat, OK? Walmart sells lovely coats, right? They provide thermal protection. Right. They provide coverage.

So if that was if all we were looking for was a coat, provide thermal protection, we would just all shop at Walmart. Why would someone spend one hundred two or three thousand dollars on a coat? That’s insane, right? Well, they bought they spent that money. And think about something that you spend money on in your life that someone else would look at and say, that’s ridiculous. I don’t know. Why are you spending money on that?

Right. Could be vacations, clothes, cars, stamp collection, whatever it is, we all have those things. And so it’s really important to understand this. This magical question is trying to figure out for your customers what are the things that they subjectively value so you can sell to them along those lines.

So maybe it’s safety and security. Maybe if you’re IBM, you don’t have to compete on product.

You’re I.B.M., right? That’s what people value when they buy you. So focusing too much on the product. I mean, products. Great, focusing too much on the product. That’s not why people are buying at the end of the day. So really being honest about why people buy your solution.

So I guess maybe there’s there’s a different set of criteria. One is you bought the absolute best thing you could possibly buy and then maybe you bought something that’s interchangeable with a bunch of other things but you’re happy with. And then there’s you bought something that you really shouldn’t have because you screwed yourself. And we don’t want to be selling in that last category, I assume. But the middle category is interesting, right? Because they’re going. Be just as successful with this product or that product or whatever, but they want to be like Mike, so they bought the Air Jordans or. Right. They would have been happy with all the other shoes. But Nike figured out how to make you extra happy. Am I understanding correctly?

Yeah. Like you felt. Now, you know, it’s hard for us to say, as you know, as the third party, what what you know, what you should spend money on. So, for example, let’s say you go to the mall and you bought those Air Jordans and you keep them nice and clean and you just you never really, you know, use them to play basketball, but you just walk around with them because it makes you feel good.

You know, everyone it’s like maybe it’s like a status symbol or maybe, you know, you always wanted them growing up and you can never you never could afford them. And now all of a sudden you have money. Now, like that’s like that’s what it’s meaningful to you. And in fact, you know, I, I work with this high end retailer. And one of the things they talk about, they sell these like very high end handbags.

And they said, you know, it’s interesting.

People think that when you come into our store or the people that shop in our store are very rich people with just lots of money. But one of their leaders was telling me a story about a woman who was doing like an MBA or business degree, shouldn’t have a lot of money, but she was kind of pushing her way through school and she said, one day I’m going to come into that store and I’m going to buy my fancy handbag.

And she came to they told me that she came to the store like every month or every couple of weeks to visit her handbag. They would let her take the handbag out, walk around with it. You know, they would put it back. And they said two years later, she came in and she bought the handbag and and she’s in the they they they they told that story to drive home. The point is that, you know, when it comes to spending money on things, it’s not, you know, let’s say expensive things, not rich people who buy things.

There’s actually a large cohort of people who save and save and save. So they can have that experience because that’s what they’re they’re buying their bling at the end of the day.

So you can’t say. And then so when you bought the handbag or it was that the best thing you could have spent your money on? Probably not.

But if you reap all this enjoyment from it, right, your Air Jordans, whatever it is, then then that’s value.

Every time you look at those shoes, you’re going to be like there’s a story behind it, right. That you’ve saved and, you know, so that’s what people are buying at the end of the day.

Well, it’s funny because I was doing a video call with a buddy who just had a birthday and he bought himself a pair of Air Jordans that he could never had when he was a kid. And now he’s got him and he’s happy.

So but people are going to say, OK, that’s great if I’m selling handbags or sneakers or whatever, but I’m selling business solutions to business people, none of this stuff applies. What do you say to that?

Can I say bullshit on your show?

Yeah, you can you can say that.

OK, good. Yeah, I said it’s bullshit then. Yeah. Look, people buy things even in the B2B world for all sorts of reasons. You know, you never someone never got fired for buying IBM. You know, think about this. So, you know, I’m a solopreneur and I don’t are some of your listeners might be solopreneurs out there? Individual.

Yes. Consultants and so on. And so one thing things the solopreneur is I only have a fixed number of hours in the day and I do everything in my business.

Right. So I, I invoice the customers. I build the website, I write the blog post. I stand and stand and deliver and do all those things. And so what’s what’s valuable to me. Right. So what’s valuable? If you want to sell me something or service, what would be valuable to me? What’s valuable to me is time savings. Right, because I can’t do everything.

And so if you were, let’s say, you know, an accountant or a bookkeeper or whatever it is that you do that potentially you could help me.

You design websites. You say if you came to me and said, oh, I build awesome websites, can I help you? I’d be like, OK, you just sound like everyone else. But if I said if you said I work specifically with small businesses and solar printers who realize that their time is much better spent doing other things in the business and building their website, all of a sudden now I’m paying attention to you, even though what you may do might be the exact same as everyone else.

You’ve spoken to me in the language of pain that resonates deeply with my situation. So absolutely you can be and and you will rise above and I will engage with you. Now, maybe people are listening now.

I’m going to get a lot of you on a web design, but no, but like that’s the idea is that if you can say the right things to align with your customer, you will disproportionately invoke those feelings. Right. And there’s lots of science behind how you use data and stories to kind of, you know, invoke those feelings.

But the idea is that no, in B2B you know, there’s a huge component, which is feelings based. If there wasn’t, for example, there would be no websites like G2 crowd or Trust Radius, like there would be no reviews online, you know, because then we would just judge all of our solutions by the intrinsic merits of their, you know, what they have to offer versus like the feelings that their customers surround them with.

So you’re saying that the feeling that you might, for example, get from saying, gosh, I’ve got an extra 10 hours a week, that’s sort of like the feeling you might get from having that fancy bag that you’ve always wanted or the feeling of I’m the busy executive and I’m actually going to leave at five o’clock every day and go to my kid’s soccer game, assuming we have soccer games at some point.

Right. As opposed to. Right.

That there is some there’s always some emotional life connection to our identity or aspirational identity wrapped up in these business decisions?

Absolutely. Well, I think about this the lottery, OK, why do people play the lottery spoiler? You’re not going to win. OK, so you’ve spent your five bucks to play the lottery. What have you bought with that? What have you bought with that?

As someone who doesn’t play the lottery. I assume it’s entertainment.

Me neither. Right. So so there’s a certain entertainment value. So, like, here’s the thing. If I pay my five bucks to buy the lottery ticket, I now get to think about all of the things I would do with the millions of dollars that I would win if I won the lottery.

And the that excitement lasts from the time I buy the ticket until the time I till they announce the numbers. It’s funny, a friend of mine who is an entrepreneur, he said, you know, growing up I always wanted to Porche like this was a big aspiration I wanted to push.

So we had an exit from his company and he finally had the money to buy a Porsche.

And so he he he gets the Porsche. He drives over my house and he says I said, oh, nice.

How’s the car is like, oh, it’s OK. Like, what do you mean it’s OK.

He says, well, you know, when I’m inside I’m like, I’m driving. I can’t speed because I live in the city. I’m on the Bluetooth talking to my mother just like normal. He said, you know what the best part of the car was? He said it was from the time I ordered the car to the time the car arrived. That was the best part of the car.

It’s like it’s it’s the feeling that you get and and you don’t get to have that feeling unless you buy a lottery ticket or buy the car.

Right.

Does that mean that we’re supposed to disappoint people with what we actually deliver?

No, no. In fact, you know, the the objective is to delight people, because I actually do believe that that sales doesn’t end once they sign on the dotted line. You know, if you bought an iPad and you love the iPad and then all of a sudden you call support and the support sucks, right. You would now hate the iPad, even though it might be intrinsically a good product. So one of the things I talk about in the book is this idea that the experience is the product.

And so I actually do believe, especially nowadays, where a lot of services are subscription based and cyclical. You know, I can I’ll use you every month or every year when I need you. You want to create that amazing possible experience so that you maintain that that feeling throughout the lifecycle.

So you definitely don’t want to oversell and under under deliver.

OK, great. Just making sure I didn’t think you were suggesting that. But, you know, the Porsche story had me worried.

Now let’s suppose we actually we use our messaging, we get through to the right people. We’re having conversations. How do we ask sales conversation, ask sales questions the right way so that we get the information that we need. But at the same time, we’re doing it the same way we would want a salesperson to speak to us. How do we do? Mindful discovery, as you put it.

Yeah, well, I’ll give you here’s my my my first mindful discovery tip, because discovery has a lot to do with mindset. So, for example, if I said Reuben, how much money do you make?

You want to tell me your business? Yeah, right. When you don’t want, tell me the answer to that question, that’s like a personal question. And so oftentimes when we go out and we do discovery with our clients and our customers, like I’m not a doctor like I in a doctor patient relationship, you come in and you’re there’s something bothering you.

I say it’s a Reuben what’s going on? You unload, you tell me everything that’s bothering you. And I get to ask you very detailed, intimate questions that you answer immediately. And truthfully, that’s the nature of the relationship in sales and business.

We don’t enjoy that same level of disclosure with our with our clients.

Probably for the best.

Probably for the best. You don’t need to know the whole story. So the question is, when I ask you a contentious question, so Reuben, what’s your budget for this project? Reuben, who’s going to sign this contract? You know, Reuben, are you looking to move forward today? You know, and I ask you these questions, these are normal business questions.

But oftentimes as a customer, you’re thinking in the back of your head, well, what does he want to know this for? And what if he if I tell him what the budget is seeking it, it’s going to change his numbers. Like, I don’t I don’t want to give that information.

Like I said, you go to a car dealership and they car dealer’s like, what’s the budget for your you have your car that usually represents like the minimum threshold.

And so one of the easiest ways that you can get people to open up is very, very simple. You actually you you tell them what you’re going to do with the information you give them.

So you might say something like, you know, Reuben, how much money do you make? The reason I ask is because this is what you say. The reason I ask is because I was actually thinking of getting into your kind of line of work one day. And, you know, I have a good job now. I’m just wondering about taking a pay cut or Reuben. What’s your budget for this project? The reason I ask is because a lot of my clients sometimes don’t have budgets set aside for this kind of thing. And if that’s the case for you, no worries. I can help you create some budget.

And so that’s one of the easiest ways to get customers to open up is just give them reasons and context for the questions you’re asking.

So basically, going back to what we said earlier, being helpful to them and not looking like you’re trying to screw them.

Transparency. Yeah, exactly. Because as a salesperson or even a non sales seller, you’re a business person. You’re trying to sell your services.

People are always worried. You know, people are actually nowadays very sensitive to being pitched. Do you have kids Reuben? You’ve mentioned your son’s playing video games?

Yeah, I’ve got twins. So I get pitched all the time.

All the time.

So when one of your kids comes up to you and they’re about to hit you up for something like they want a permission to play a game or to download an app, how long does it take you to tell that they’re about to hit you up when they approach you?

Generally, about a nanosecond.

There you go. Just by the way, they approach you like that. And like the answer is no. Whatever you what’s your question? You start with this position of defense.

And so we’re very perceptive when people are about to pitch us, even when we go into a company’s website and start reading their headlines and taglines like human beings don’t talk to each other using this language. Right. And so in sales, when you start asking quote unquote, sales questions. Right, it can make our customers very, very defensive. So providing transparency is very important. The other thing that you can do to get customers to open up is just make it OK for them to say no.

This is a really important concept. You know, oftentimes, let’s say, for example, let’s say you go into you’re in the mall and you go into a clothing store and you’re thumbing through the merchandise and a salesperson walks over to you and says, excuse me, sir, can I help you find anything?

No, I’m just like, I can say no, even if even if you do need help. Right. Because because you’re saying, well, if I say yes, then I’m letting you do all your sneaky sales things to me. And I don’t want that. So I’m just going to start from the position of defense. And so what they actually do, it’s interesting in retail, as I’ve kind of studied this a bit, what do they do to make it less, you know, come off as seeming less pushy?

They usually have, let’s say, a person at the front of the store, folding clothes, refolding clothes, like there’s no reason why someone needs to be at the front of the store folding clothes, but they look busy. Right. And so it’s almost as though they’re not there to greet you. They’re they’re just doing their job. And so you feel less pressure to engage. And so this idea, it’s actually a psychological principle known as reactance. It’s people’s tendency to to to lash out when they feel that their freedom to choose is being restricted.

It’s why when you see a sign that says don’t walk on the grass, the only thing you can think of is I want to walk on this grass so badly now because the signs that I couldn’t do it or wet paint, that’s the bet. You see a sign says wet paint.

What do you want to do?

Touch the paint?

I want to touch the paint.

That’s right. And so the idea is the same thing in sales. Right. So we can take the pressure off our customers. You know, for example, there’s lots of different ways we can do this. I can say, hey, look, you know, I provide accounting services to small businesses like yours. I’m happy to to talk about what is we do.

I really focus on working with solopreneurs to help save them time in their day. And but look, if we decide it’s not a fit, if you don’t think it’s a fit, then no worries. Like, we don’t have to have a conversation right now.

You feel free to say no. And it’s more like we want to give you the freedom to say no, that you’ll come back and engage and that if you actually do say no, you avoid it maybe. Yes, I know it is common in sales parlance to say that yes is the best answer. No is the second best answer maybe is the worst answer you can get.

Now you have something else in your book about how you can order questions to get better information. Can you talk about that briefly? Yeah.

So this is I’m going to warn everyone. This is like a very advanced tactic and even just to kind of wrap your mind around. But the reason this works, so imagine this, I’ll make it simple.

Let’s say you’re a kid and you come home with a bad report card and now you have to the teacher says you got to show this report card to your mother and get get your mother to sign off. So what do you do?

OK, you’re like, OK, my mother’s not going to like this one bit.

So you take the report card, you put it behind your back and go to your mother and you’re like, Mom, did anyone tell you you look beautiful today?

Right now, your mother probably knows kind of what’s going on, but that’s actually a psychological principle. Again, it’s based on the principle called self perception theory. And the idea is that when you can put someone in a temporarily, for example, good mood Reuben, you look you look very handsome today.

Why thank you.

Before I ask you for a loan, right. All of a sudden, that micro moment when you were in a good mood will now color the feelings you have to the rest of the interaction just for a moment. And so when we talk about the order in which we answer, ask our questions, there’s a similar principle that’s in play. So if the example I give in the book, and I’ve stolen this from one of my favorite thinking books called Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner.

Great book.

Heavy read if you’re into it. And he references a study where they asked these German university students, they said, how happy are you these days? And I ask you this, how happy are you these days? That’s like a hard question to answer because it’s dependent on so many different things, your happiness. But then I ask you, how many dates have you been on in the last month? And they wanted to see, was there a correlation?

Like, if I if you said you were happy, then maybe you’ve been on quite a lot of dates in the last month. They actually found one to ask the question that order. There was no correlation. And the reason is because how happy are you is actually a kind of a hard question to answer. But when they ask the questions in reverse correlations off the chart. So if I ask you, how many dates have you been on Reuben in the last month?

And you say, oh, quite a lot. And I’ll say, well, how happy are you these days?

You’re more likely if you had a positive response to the first question to answer positively. So to give you an example, let’s say I’m a personal trainer. I’m trying to sell you on some training services, I might say, how happy are you with your overall health Reuben?

And you know, and then I might I might ask you that question then may I ask a follow up question? So how many times you’ve been to the gym in the last month?

OK, how happy are you with your overall health is actually a multifaceted question. Like I could be happy with some parts and others, but how many times you went to the gym? You know the answer to that question and you know whether or not that’s a good answer. A bad answer. So if I were to ask you the questions in reverse, Reuben, how many times have you been to the gym in the last month?

And you said, oh, not quite. Not a lot.

And then I said, well, how happy are you these days with your level physical fitness? Now, you’re more likely to say, actually, you know what? I could probably use a bit of a fitness tuneup. So that’s what I the order in which you ask your questions is, again, I told you it was going to be a bit more advanced, but there’s actually quite a lot of psychology in science that goes into how you get people to feel based on the order in which you ask.

So basically, you ask a specific quantitative question first, even if they’re not going to know the exact answer. And then you ask the qualitative subjective question. So you might go to a company and say, what percentage of your reps made quota, then how do you feel about your sales team? But if you start by asking, how do you feel about your sales team? And like, oh, they’re great, I love these guys.

That’s right, exactly. Or for example, are you how many times do you have to call your current vendor for support over the last month?

Oh, quite a lot. Oh, how happy are you with your current vendor? Right. That is a lot more effective in terms of the line of questioning than the reverse.

We’ve got this notion of when we’re doing outreach, we want to be specific and helpful and interesting and polarizing. We want to get into the mind of the buyer. We want to understand that they are buying experiences and feelings, not stuff. And we want to as an advanced topic, we want to ask them a specific quantitative question, followed by the more open ended subjective questions. Anything else that folks should go away with after this?

You know, the one thing that I often just tell people is sell the way you buy, meaning empathetically OK, very bit. Just don’t use tactics that wouldn’t work on you. You’re about to take an approach about to reach out to a customer, send them an email, call them on the phone. If that tactic wouldn’t work on you, then don’t use it on them. And then the other part of it is just kind of explore these pathways, explore the.

Pathways by which you make purchasing decisions in your normal everyday life doesn’t have to be to be the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the food you order, all of those things are clues to how you buy. And the more you can align your, if I can call it selling motion with how you buy and how you make purchasing decisions, the better and more successful you will be doing those same things with your clients.

That’s a great tip of what’s funny, because I rack my brain over the subject a lot. I realize that there are a bunch of people who have been really helpful salespeople for me, but I can’t recall them because they didn’t make the buying experience about them. They just helped me do the thing I wanted to do. I can bring up a bunch of horrible salespeople, like decades later I’m like, that guy was such a lying, sneaking jerk.

But I can’t remember the probably the more numerous situations where someone was great and just help me buy stuff because they were doing it the way I wanted and they were helping me.

That’s exactly it you know, I love sales, but I never I never obviously never thought of myself as a sales person being in, you know, in academia and being research scientist.

But I love helping people and I have a natural conviction around certain things. And that’s also, you know, I talk a lot about this in my content is like, how do you manifest that conviction and passion around what it is that you do, even if what you do is normal? You know, we’re not saving children in Third World countries here, but how do you manifest the conviction? Because that conviction is very intoxicating. And, you know, when when you think about, for example, this idea of how do you sell if you hate selling, I always come back to this quote from Shoe Dog Phil– I think Phil Jones was Phil Jones, the CEO of Nike.

Phil Knight.

Phil Phil Knight. That’s right.

Great book.

he and he says, you know, I never thought of myself as a salesman. I just loved running. And I thought that if everyone ran, people would be better off. And so I was just sharing my passion and conviction with people. So the key is like, if you have that natural passion, conviction for what it is that you do, then you are going to be you’re going to be in great shape. Yeah. You’re going to be great shape in terms of being able to to convince and convert others.

That’s a great point. And I think what a lot of people do, they have that passion and conviction. And if you’re talking to them in a situation that they don’t consider a sales situation, it comes across beautifully. And then as soon as they get involved in, quote unquote, sales or marketing, they slathered a bunch of bullshit because that’s what they think is involved in sales matters like, no, you actually have everything you need.

Just leave the bullshit out and you’re all set, right?

Absolutely. And that’s what we refer to as like the Cobra Kai tactics. Like you’re just doing it because some jerk taught you to do this thing, but you never thought about why you were doing it or how effective it was. And that’s when you start getting calls from like telemarketers and stuff. And again, these are not bad people, right? They’re just doing their job someone told them to do, even though it might go against their better nature.

And I’ve been you know, I haven’t done telemarketing for a job, but I’ve been one of those volunteer telemarketers raise money for this great cause, blah, blah, blah, blah. And, you know, however great the causes, no one likes getting those calls.

We do not because we’re interrupting and bothering people. In fact, I remember seeing a talk in a conference. I was at New York City with Gary Vaynerchuk, you know, Gary Gary V and he he asked this question that blew my mind, actually. And I’m trying to recall if I put it in the book, but I talk about it a lot.

He said, show of hands, there was a thousand sales and marketing executives in the audience. He said, who here hates it when another human being calls them on the phone?

That was it wasn’t like, oh, your mother or telemarketer, just another human being calls them on the phone. Forty percent of people raised their hand and he said, you know why you say that is? Because nowadays the most precious commodity to you is your time. When someone calls you, they’re they’re stealing your time. They’re calling you on your time. Right. To interrupt you. And so in the world of modern selling, if you’re going to interrupt someone, which is what you’re doing, they’re going to take your call.

You better have something good to say and some value to add. Otherwise they’re going to hate you.

David, thanks so much for sharing your time and your wisdom. I appreciate it. And I think people are going to get a lot out of this.

Cheers. Thanks so much, Reuben. Pleasure to be with you.

Thanks for listening, if you have a friend who would benefit from this episode, please pass the word along, have a friend who wouldn’t benefit but you haven’t talked to in a while. Give them a call. iTunes reviews are great to get the word out and help me create the show that’s most useful to you. And if you’re frustrated with your sales and marketing process or lack thereof, check out Mimiran the CRM for people who hate selling until next time. www.mimiran.com

The Wine

David had some lemon water and I hate some Chateau >>>>????


Where to find David…

Sell the way you buy

Other books mentioned:

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com, the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”, (Mimiran also makes it easy to track and grow referrals). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

Want a way to make sales and marketing fun, without being “salesy”? Try Mimiran, the CRM for people who hate “selling”.


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053: Chalmers Brothers on the language of happiness

Chalmers Brothers started out getting an engineering degree before getting his MBA and joining Accenture, but that’s not why he’s here. He’s on Sales for Nerds because he wrote one of the most fascinating books I’ve read, Language and the Pursuit of Happiness. If you haven’t read it, you should, even after you listen to/read this discussion.

This is a bit of a different episode– there are no “sales tactics” or “marketing tips”, but I think you’ll find it very worthwhile– it will change the way you have conversations– both with others, and in your own head.

Chalmers shares wisdom how:

  • We are not hermits, we live with other people (even us introverts).
  • We live in language like fish live in water. We use language not only to describe but to generate our world.
  • We are all unique observers. If we walk down the street with someone else, we will see different things.
  • Leaders (and sales people, and business owners) are paid to have effective conversations. Most of our relationships are conversational, after all.
  • We see with our eyes but we observe with our distinctions.
  • Chalmers is trying to move people away from right/wrong orientation to working/not working.
  • We constantly make assertions about the world (“I am 5 foot 10”)– assertions are statements that someone can verify or invalidate.
  • We also constantly make assessments (“I am short”, “she is reliable”), which are subjective.
  • The big problem is confusing these two types of language, and not realizing that our assessments are not assertions, and that they may be disconnected from reality. (“sales is slimy”, “he is unreliable”).
  • Assessments aren’t bad– they just need to be conscious and have standards and connect assessments to assertions.
  • Declarations are powerful, generative acts (“I am good at sales”/”I am bad at sales”). Are you creating empowering or disempowering conversations with yourself?
  • If you want to design your own life (the only one we’ve got), start by being conscious of your assertions, assessments, and declarations.
  • We sometimes think that “I don’t know” is disempowering, but it’s actually a very powerful declaration, which really means, “I know that I don’t know”, which opens the door to learning. As the world changes faster and faster, the ability to learn becomes more and more important. (Brothers quotes philosopher Eric Hoffer: “In times of change, those who are prepared to learn will inherit the land, while who already know will find themselves equipped to face a world that no longer exists.”)
  • If you’re going to have a difficult conversation, what can you do so that you have the fewest regrets?
  • We use language to collaborate and manage commitments with others via requests, offers, and promises.
  • An effective request has 4 elements: a committed speaker, a committed listener, future action/condition of satisfaction, including a deadline and context, and mood.
  • Such a request has 4 valid responses: yes, no, commit to commit (“have to check my calendar, but I’ll have a response by 5PM tomorrow”), or a counteroffer.
  • Another important distinction is between a promise broken and a silent expectation unmet. If someone breaks a promise, you can make a reasonable complaint, but resentment comes when someone fails to honor a request you never made.
  • Think about what proportion of your interactions at work (and at home) come from clear commitments or from unspoken expectations.
  • Given the results you want, are your explanations serving you? (Events/assertions are not the springboard for actions, it’s the assessments/explanations that we use to interpret them.) If we don’t even know we’re doing this, it’s very hard to get it right.
  • Biology predisposes us to negative interpretations– they helped to keep us alive– that may not serve us well now.

053 Chalmers Brothers on the Language of Happiness.mp3 – powered by Happy Scribe

Love helping your clients, but its sales and marketing, but somehow you ended up with sales and marketing responsibilities. And this is the podcast for you. Hi, chief nerd Reuben Swartz here. And I spent a long time learning these lessons the hard way. And I want to help you learn the easy way by sharing my experiences and talking with brilliant people who have figured out how to hack not just the code, but the sales and marketing process as well.

Of course, as a nerdy person who hated struggling with complex theorems, I had to create my own CRM for people who actually hate selling, which sounds like an oxymoron. But if it sounds interesting to you, check it out at Mimiran.com. That’s M-I-M-I-R-A-N.COM. And whether or not you need a new CRM, you’ll find proposal templates and sample lead magnets to help you grow your business.

Now let’s get to it today.

I’m really excited to have with me Chalmers Brothers. He is the author of Language and the Pursuit of Happiness. Well, that’s actually his first book and the one I’ve read. He’s also the author of Language and the Pursuit of Leadership Excellence. And this these books have been adopted at places like Georgetown and Harley Davidson. He’s been on the speaking circuit for Vistage. But really, it’s kind of funny because somebody recommended language in the pursuit of happiness to me.

And I read it and it was really mind blowing. And then somehow a couple of months later, Chalmers connected with me on LinkedIn. And I thought it was a sign from the universe like, how did he know that I was reading his book and really wanted to come on my podcast. But it took us, I don’t know what, but two years to actually get this thing scheduled.

So he’s finally here and I’m really excited about what he’s got to say. Chalmers, welcome to Sales for Nerds.

Thank you so much. Reuben. It’s a pleasure being with you. And it was a roundabout way of connecting, but we made it happen. So so thanks for the invitation.

Truly awesome. And most importantly, what do you have in your glass?

I have Balvenie fourteen Caribbean cask.

Oh I love that one. It’s got that little bit of rum in it right from the broadcast.

I’m blessed and fortunate to be able to say that my wife and I and four of our dearest friends went to Scotland recently my first time, and I was introduced to the world of Scots in a way that I wasn’t before. And that’s one of the ones that we had over there before the trip. I had not had it, and I really like it. It’s wonderful.

and I’ve got some Oban eighteen, not the the fourteen that I tend to to drink more regularly. But I picked up a bottle of the eighteen recently and it is a lot like the fourteen, but as you might expect, just a little bit mellower. It’s still got that like honey and caramel. But yeah, it’s quite delicious.

So you, you, you have an engineering background and you’d like to say you’re an accidental engineer. Most of the people here are accidental salespeople and we’re not necessarily going to talk about sales per say the way we usually do. But I wanted to talk a little bit about your book, and this is so timely because I’ve been thinking a lot about how the stories we tell ourselves are so important.

And you say a lot of things about language that once you read them, you’re like, oh, that’s so obvious. But why didn’t I think of that before, both in terms of how we speak to ourselves and, of course, how we communicate with other people.

Yes, yes. And I have to say, Reuben, I am standing on gigantic shoulders. Everything in both books really is from my great fortune, from meeting and learning, from two incredible groups of people. One is called the organisation is called Education for Living. It’s in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And the second one, and more specifically is the new field network in Boulder, Colorado. And I have to say, Julia Aliah is the founder of Nuffield and he is the most influential teacher person in my life.

And a great many of the ways that I understand these distinctions, the way I frame them, I’m sharing my version of what I got taught by Julio. And it’s been I did that work long program in nineteen ninety five called Mastering the Art of Professional Coaching. And since January of ninety six, this is all I’ve been doing. Our program is based on, as you mentioned, right this way of understanding language and more specifically the power of language that if you ask, for example, 100 people, 100000 people, what is language, what does language for the gigantic majority.

Right. Will answer with? Well, a tool for communication or some variation of that and Reuben that is such a widely held way of understanding language that most people don’t see it as a way of understanding language. They see it as a definition of language. And the work that I do now and what I was taught is that language, in addition to, yes, we do describe with language, but in addition to that, there’s a generative capacity to to our thoughts and our speech and is understanding the way in which we create and generate with language that really makes the difference.

When you look at leadership, for example, lots of my work is around leadership, but the same, I think, could be applied to sales. If I ask and I do this all the time in my work, I have a room full of leaders in front of me and I say, guys, when it’s all said and done, what do you get paid to do? Right. I mean, of all the things you have to do in your job as a leader, what are the most important one or two or three things that you say you get paid to do?

And as you might imagine, they answer with things like, I get paid to retain customers, I get paid to shape the culture of the company. I get paid to groom the next generation of leaders to ensure continuous process improvement. I get paid to ensure satisfied customers. I get paid to to drive excellence in execution and innovate and inspire and motivate and coach and listen all these things. And when you actually look at it, what would a camera see you doing as you’re doing all of those things?

Right, what is the human being who is doing all of those things actually doing and when we think about it a little bit, well, that human being is engaging with other human beings, talking and listening leaders get paid to have effective conversations. And I would say the same question could be asked of salespeople of all the things you have to do to be a successful salesperson. Right. Everybody does a thousand different things, and that’s fine. But what are the most important and Reuben your background may be much stronger than me here.

If you ask a bunch of excellent successful salespeople, what are the most important one or two or three things you say you have to do to be successful as a salesperson, what are one or two or three or four things that that they would respond to you with?

Well, I think they would probably say one, two, three and four are all I need to talk to prospects and customers.

Exactly, exactly. And it’s interesting how how obvious this is when we look at it is that it’s about relationships, it’s about relationships. And most of our relationships are not physical. They’re not sexual. They’re conversational.

It’s so funny you mention that I’m literally staring at that highlight right now in my notes because I wanted to make sure we touched on that. And then there’s another sentence and then it says, change them and you change the relationship, stop them and you stop the relationship. And I think that’s a really powerful way to look at it. And we don’t always take the time to be intentional about those conversations.

No, you’re exactly right, you’re exactly right and and broader than that, the framework that I was introduced to it and now is central in the work that I do is broader than that. All organisations themselves, when you really look at them deeply, all organisations can be understood as networks of conversations, networks of commitments, people making and managing promises with each other. Right. Big ones, little ones, informal, formal in writing orally. And once you understand that the company itself is composed of a network.

Of internal commitments, these conversations, again, given the creative dimension of language, they create quantitative and qualitative results. Productivity is the result of very quantitative profitability, obviously, as a result. Very quantitative market share. Absolutely. But your organizational culture is also a result of your public identity, how you show up in the world as a result, the nature of our most important relationships. These are results and any more. When I look at the way my career has evolved over the years, almost all the work I do inside organizations now Reuben, broadly speaking, can be understood to be supporting the leadership team and creating and sustaining the certain type of corporate culture that they say is most conducive to the results that they want to produce.

There is a Peter Drucker years ago, leadership guru, he said culture eats strategy for breakfast. Right. Culture eats strategy for breakfast, and this is largely the work I’m doing now is all about culture work. And for this we don’t need functional or technical competencies. We need conversational, relational and emotional competencies. Right. These are the types of competencies that we need if we’re in the business of shaping this physical but very real thing we call organizational culture.

In fact, lately, a lot of my clients are starting to use the term threshold competencies to refer to functional and technical competencies. But these are considered to be the cost of admission. But this is what it cost to even play the game. What really separates us organization from organization? It has to do with the organizational culture, and this is built by sustained by conversational, relational and emotional competency. So, you know, all of my work is around these these competencies.

All of my clients are way smarter than me functionally and technically, all of my work is around conversations and relations.

Now, could we extend this model or could we include under the the umbrella of organization, a family, a network of friendships, a nonprofit, a church, whatever?

Absolutely. I mean, think about it. There’s a lady up there named Bernie Brown, and she’s a powerful speaker. She’s from Houston, I think, a researcher and extremely motivational. She talks about the power of vulnerability. And she’s widely known and is a spectacular human being. And she talks about human beings are hard wired for connection. Right, I mean, think about it. Language itself is acquired socially. Right, it’s not a quiet as an individual, it’s a quiet if I was born in a different country, of course, I would learn a different language because I was in that society, that culture, this notion in my work, I say that we are not hermits.

Basic claim, right, we are not hermit’s, which means we do already big, big, big chunks of our life already with and through people, and because we’re not hermits, because we do so much of our life with and through people, how you dance with people matters, but how you show up matters. How you coordinate action like this broad definition, big C, big A, how do we coordinate action with all the other non hermit’s that we coordinate action with in our lives?

Because the way that we do this basic coordination of action impacts a huge variety of our quantitative and qualitative results.

Now, one of the interesting things you talk about in the first book, Language of the Pursuit of Happiness, you sort of you you have a lot of you delve into distinctions.

Right. And the more distinctions we can make, the more we kind of understand something as a as an amateur or I get asked all the time, what kind of trees are there in my backyard? And I say, I don’t know, they’re green.

And you mentioned in the book that the forester or the woodcarver or someone else see as those trees completely differently. And one of the things that you say is interesting that I think it’s easy to get sucked into. You talk about different types of thoughts or ways of communicating, and he says non hermit’s, our ability to keep assertions and assessments separate and distinct from each other is critical. And I think that’s really important. But can we talk a little bit about assertions and assessments and why that matters?

I would love to. And in fact, before I do that, I want to go a little bit broader with distinctions, because this is a gigantic topic. What we’re talking about here, Reuben, is the fallacy of objectivity that we do not we are not objective in any way, shape or form. Now, yes, there are certain and we’ll talk about this with assertions there are certain historical and biological facts, but in a broad, broad way, the this notion of the scientific paradigm.

Right, that we we see things as they are. Well, a as you mentioned, a forester and a wood carver do not by definition see the same thing when they look at the same forest. Right, they have different distinctions. My wife is a physician, a Western trained physician and an Eastern trained physician do not see the same thing when they look at the same patient. Right. We observe, we see with our eyes, but we observe through our distinctions.

You give me new distinctions in the domain of forestry. My next walk in the woods is different. Right, you give me new distinctions in the domain of language, my next walk in the world is different, right and right write these distinctions, make us a unique type of observer. So a basic claim in both of my books is that we human beings, by definition, we are unique observers. You and I could walk down the same street at the same time, look at the same things.

And when you ask us afterwards, what did you notice on the trip down the street? We’re going to have a very different report. Right, and and one of us isn’t right and the other one isn’t wrong and Reuben moving people away from this right wrong orientation is one of my central one of my central themes in my life is this notion that and it’s interesting how thickly we come from the right or wrong orientation, the right or wrong background. But to help people understand, you know, you’re not wrong just because you don’t have the same distinctions.

I do. You’re just a different observer. Right. And different observers see different possibilities, can take different actions and produce different results. And one of the most powerful sets of distinctions I was ever shared was ever taught. And now I get to share is assertions and assessments. And so at a basic level, there’s a little activity I do with folks and I have two statements on a page. On the left side is the statement, I am a man and on the right side I am stupid.

So the question is, what’s the difference between those two statements? And underneath, I am a man, we have other things like John is six feet, five inches tall. The building is one hundred and twenty seven feet across, it’s 72 degrees Fahrenheit today in Naples, Florida, and on the right side under I am stupid. We have things like John is an excellent CEO. Maria is a fabulous dancer. The building is chilly. Right. So I am a man, John is six foot five.

The building is twenty seven feet across. These are assertions what we historically call facts on the right side. I am stupid. Maria is a great dancer. All of these are assessment’s what we typically call opinions or personal judgments and Reuben. Our ability to keep these separate is gigantic. These are not the same thing at all and there are very different results that get produced whether we use these will or use them poorly. And in my work, when I do a long program with folks, we absolutely talk about assertions and assessments.

And it’s interesting, let’s you and I right now try to have a conversation only using assertions. Oh, OK. OK, all right. So here we go. I’ll start. I’m sitting in a chair. I’m standing up.

I am five foot 10 inches tall.

I’m five foot 10 inches tall, too.

I live in Naples, Florida.

I live in Austin, Texas.

Is this not a ridiculously, horrendously dull and stilted conversation, we should be far more judgmental and throw some assessments in there.

So what that means is we don’t do this. All of our conversations are peppered with personal judgments, personal opinions. And, of course, assessments are not bad. We must make assessments. The problem is not that we make assessments. The problem is we begin to hold them as the truth, them as assertions. The assessments we make about ourselves can paralyzes. The assessments we make about other people orient us toward them in certain ways that we can close possibilities and be completely unaware that we’re doing this.

Right, have to guess that, right, we are assessment machines, but a crucial distinction is can we make grounded assessments? Can we make assessments that are connected to assertions, facts in a way that we can connect the dots? And also do we make assessments based on any standard they consciously declared standard? So a simple example. If I say John is unreliable, right. For that to be a grounded assessment, I have to have some times in which John did make an appointment.

On Tuesday at two o’clock, he said he’d be here. He didn’t show up on Wednesday at four o’clock. He said he’d be there. He didn’t show up on Saturday morning at eight thirty. He said he’d be there. He didn’t show up three assertions. Absolutely. Now we can talk about what is my standard for reliability. Well, my standard is if you miss two meetings in a six month period and don’t call me ahead of time, I ask you, is unreliable.

I put you in an unreliable box. Right. But it’s interesting how many of the assessments that we make are not at all done in that with that kind of rigor. Right. Right. We don’t have a consciously declared standard for laziness or ugliness or excellence or high quality. And yet we go ahead and make these assessments nonetheless. And my work is this. That’s fine. But let’s have both eyes open because assertions belong to the past and the present.

John missed two meetings in a row in February. That statement sits there, but once I say John is unreliable, did you feel it now swing toward a prediction of his future behavior?

Right. And it’s going to be a lens through which we now manage interactions with him.

If it is Reuben and you know why, I’m going to find evidence moving forward every single time he’s unreliable or late, it’s going to register. Absolutely. I’m going to see it very clearly and I’m going to write off as an aberration or miss entirely when he’s on time. Right. You know why? Because human beings love to be. Right, right. We love to be right. And our assessments are absolutely this is a linguistic trap, it’s a linguistic trap, but if we don’t think we’re making assessments in the first place, none of what we talked about makes any sense at all.

Right. If you think you’re seeing it like it is, I alone have cosmic objectivity in my eyes or like clear panes of glass allowing me access to native reality. Right. You know, Reuben, when I when I first started this work, when I was introduced to this work in nineteen eighty seven, I have to be honest, I actually thought and I was twenty six, twenty seven. I thought in my heart of hearts that if you didn’t, if anybody didn’t see things the way I did, that they were stupid, there was something wrong with them.

I actually thought in my heart of hearts that the way I saw things was the way they were, look, you have eyes, it’s right there, open you right. There it is. And interestingly, I grew up in southeast Louisiana, public school education, kind of a normal family upbringing, kind of a suburban, little bit rural environment, but close enough to New Orleans that we were in New Orleans quite a bit. And so nothing extraordinary there.

But somehow and nobody taught me this explicitly, but somehow I was convinced that I was objective, that the way I saw things was the way they were. And I remember I think there was somebody at that initial workshop, one of the instructors said something like this to me. He said, look, Thomas, you’re a good guy and all that stuff. But if you keep operating this way, you’re going to dramatically limit the number of quality people that will ever be in your life.

Because they’ll go away. And I said, I don’t want that to happen, they said, let’s stay in his workshop, it’s his workshop. But Reuben I mentioned it because I don’t know why I felt it that strongly, but I did. And nobody taught me that it was never part of a school class. It was never part of anything that I experienced. But I just felt it so, so strongly that I was objective. Well, I think we’re all kind of wired to think that we see the world correctly, right?

We want to have belief in our interpretation of the world was introduced to me and now is is central to my work. People of goodwill can and do interpret things quite differently than I do. Absolutely. All the time. And that is simply the way we are. There’s there’s some biological roots to this work, which is called ontological coaching, that by definition, there’s nothing in the human biology that allows me to claim that I know how anything is outside of me.

All I know is how it is for me. And this is whether it’s Albert Einstein and other folks have said a version of this, we see the world not as it is, but as we are right, that we see the world right. And so people wait long, long ago have been pointing to this. Right. This is part of several wisdom traditions that this is. It goes way back. But I just find it interesting that for me, I just felt so acutely that I was objective.

And, you know, you give me a new set of distinctions. I promise you, I see things differently. You put me in a different mood. I see things differently. You do. You do something different to my biology. Like give me a scotch. Right. Right. Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. So there’s these three domains, right? The domain of our language, internal and external conversations, the domain of our moods and emotions and the domain of our physical body and biology.

And all of these are obviously interdependent, interrelated with each other. But this notion that we are unique observers, well, we’re not a walking, talking eyeball observer. We are a walking, talking bundle of coherency and bundle of congruency between our language, which is internal and external conversations, our moods and emotions and our physical bodies. And we have all experienced this firsthand. I mean, think of it. How many of us have ever felt better, which is mood after we exercise, which is body.

Right? We do. And then when you exercise and feel better now we go to language. Do you not interpret the same flat tire or often comment differently? Absolutely. Right, but it’s this notion that each of us is a unique observer, these three dimensions are central interrelated, and the way that we observe is based on all of them. Of course, distinctions, right. We can have linguistic distinctions. We can also have felt biological distinctions, meaning I live on a little dock here in Naples, Florida.

I can tell when I go fishing, I can tell within five seconds if I have a Jack Krieble or redfish on the line. Because I have distinctions, right, the jackrabbit shakes the head, you can feel it bump up, up, up, up, up, up on the rod tip and people are way more experienced than I am in fishing. Have way more distinctions than that. All right, so we have felt distinctions, you have linguistic distinctions and auto mechanic in a garage, right?

You take your car in and you say, you know, the car’s not running, right? And he says, start it up. Open the hood and he says, look, you hear that ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. I said, No, no, I hear I hear a motor is a no, no, no. Listen, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.

They have distinctions, right? There are there are lessened distinctions, audible distinctions, visual distinction, linguistic distinctions. And all of these, obviously, coupled with biology, moods and emotions, they impact the way that we observe. And from the way we observe, we take action. And from the actions we take, we produce results both quantitative and qualitative.

So I want to take a moment and split this into two separate branches because I feel like there’s one is the conversations we have with ourselves and then, of course, the more complex conversations we have with other people.

But I want to start with the conversations we have with ourselves, because I think a lot of what you write is really important to folks listening who might say, for example, I’m going to make an assertion that I’ve never had any formal sales training or whatever and then make the assessment. Therefore, I can never be good at sales and.

Right. And it sort of spirals from there.

And boom, you have created a world where you cannot be good.

That’s correct. That’s correct. And so there’s a notion, some basic claims of looking at language this way is number one, we live in language Reuben, we live in language. And by that we mean the little voice inside is rarely silent. Right, I ask a room full of people, I said, who here today has the little voice inside? But every hand goes up. I mean, I want to say, what’s he talking about? That’s what I’m talking about.

That’s the one Mark Twain had a great quote. He said, I’m always in conversation and sometimes other people are involved. Right? Right. And so it’s not just Mark Twain or schizophrenic’s. It’s all of us. So basic, basically. Number one is that we live in language, no exceptions, basically. Number two is that language creates and generates. It doesn’t just describe. Right. And when you put those two together, because we live in language and because language has a creative dimension to it.

Well, that means we’re always creating or generating something. It just may or may not be what we say we want at the other side of our mouth and any any kind of I’m not or I am statement. And it was taught to me this way, not just with this body of work, but in spiritual traditions as well. If you say I am stupid, I am no good, I am excellent. Any kind of I am statement. Get ready for the creative power of the universe to kick in because I am.

Statements are profoundly powerful. Declarations and declarations create individual and organizational context. And if I have a declaration that says I’ll never be good at this, I don’t have I don’t have the background to be successful here. What happens is we set ourself up, as you mentioned, for failure. I find evidence to make myself right. Right. I love to be right. And all the things I do, I’m looking through a lens, not a physical lands, of course, but a linguistic lens, an emotional lens that distorts everything that I’m saying.

And so this notion that that the internal the internal narratives that we live in are profoundly creative. And it’s interesting how and I ask this to people say, look how many of us in this room today, we’re all successful people, professional people. How many of us in the room today have ever found yourself from time to time living in unpalatable conversations? But every hand goes that Reuben, right, everybody has done this right, and that’s because our language is connected to our moods.

A mood of resentment, for example, has stories of victimhood, internal narratives of I’m the victim. This is unfair. I’m going to get you back whenever I can. All this stuff right. Resignation, nothing I do matters. I think I’ll just stay on the couch. All that. There’s a such a strong connection with their moods and our internal narratives. That and again, back to the Big I self-awareness focus. Many of us are terrible observers of our own moods.

And so we really can’t talk about internal narratives without talking about moods, without talking about the gigantic impact that moods have on our internal narratives and that our internal narratives have on our moods.

So this whole notion of, hey, I’ve never done formal sales training, I’m bad at sales, I’ll always be bad at sales. I just had a sales call that went poorly. Now I’m in a foul mood. It all kind of builds on itself. How do we break out of that and have a more powerful conversation with our or empowering conversation with ourselves?

You know, the first step to me is being aware that we are the authors of our internal narratives to begin with. Right. There’s a great expression, Reuben, that event does not equal explanation. Right. The events happen in our lives, the events with with the potential customer, events with our spouse, events on the turnpike, events on the shop floor, write events, events, events, events. And here’s what we do as human beings.

Number one, we make up stories about these events. Number two, we hold these stories to be the truth. And number three, we forget that we made them up.

So what an event be sort of analogous to an assertion, would and our interpretation be analogous to the assassination?

OK. And this notion that and again, it’s not wrong that we make up explanations. We have to because we live in language. Right. It’s what we do. The problem is we don’t see that we’re doing this right. Problem is right. We begin holding our explanation as it is, as if it is the event. We begin holding our assessment as if it is an assertion. And depending on the nature of that assessment, depending on the nature of that interpretation, it can paralyzes.

But none of this makes any sense at all. If you don’t see yourself as the author to begin with. Once we begin to see that we I’m not just reading this, I wrote them, then we can have a different conversation, huh? Isn’t it interesting of all the possible interpretations I could have formed? Isn’t it interesting I found this one? Huh, let’s talk about that, let’s talk about that right? And now is when hopefully coaching can come in, right?

Help can come in from a colleague, a friend, a spouse and say, listen, Reuben man, here’s what just happened and here’s the way I’m interpreting it. Here’s why I’m holding it not with my hands, but with my interpretations. Let me bounce it off of you and let’s talk. Do you see other possibilities here? And I have to say this, Reuben, I’ve been fortunate to speak for over twenty two years to peer groups and the Vistage community, Vistage peer groups, and that’s the power of a peer group, right.

Because you get to say, hey, listen, guys, ladies, this is what happened to me. Here’s the way I’m interpreting it. What do you think? What do you think, are there other possibilities here, because by definition, I’m a unique observer, right? I have a certain set of distinctions. I’m living in certain spaces. I have a certain genetic heritage and biological predisposition. And this is the interpretation I came up with. But this is what I’ve learned over the years.

The movement, the shift from not being able to see that you are indeed the author of your own interpretations. And those interpretations form the basis for your actions. And those actions influence and drive your results. The shift from not being able to see that and being able to see it, it’s an it’s an ocean. It’s a substantial expansion of awareness to be able to acknowledge and accept, see that we are indeed the authors of our own interpretations. It’s a but but that step to me, that’s the threshold.

That is the minimum level of self-awareness that we need to really be conscious about designing our own lives.

When it’s interesting, you mentioned threshold, because one of my other notes that I thought was really powerful out of the book is saying that ignorance is not the opposite of learning. It’s the threshold of learning. And so much of us about trying to always be right.

Being right means that you don’t want to allow yourself to be ignorant. Right. It’s perfect, is perfect.

And instead, we want to be able to be ignorant because then we get to learn stuff and that’s kind of fun. And then we get to see the world in new ways. Spectacular.

I mean, think of it this way. And this notion ignorance means I don’t know what the capacity and again, the power of language I don’t know is a profoundly powerful declaration. And when we declare right. When we declare internally or externally, I don’t know. We’re not describing a state of affairs nearly as much as we are producing something. What we’re producing is called a context or an opening for learning, not physical, utterly and completely real. When we declare, I don’t know either to ourselves or out loud, we create this nonphysical but very real space, this emotional space where now everything else being equal learning is ridiculously more likely.

There’s a and again, looking back, I’m looking at your little emoji or your little symbol, right. The Yin yang. Right. For your your podcast. This is this goes back, back, back, back, back. There’s a Buddhist expression. You can’t pour water into a glass. It’s already full. Right. Right. And this this capacity and when we say when we declare I don’t know, what we’re really saying is I know that.

I don’t know. And that is what we call ignorance, blindness is I don’t know that I don’t know. Right. So a quick and dirty formula back to my engineering days. A quick and dirty formula for learning is we got to get from blindness. I don’t know that. I don’t know to ignorance. I know that. I don’t know. And the way that we do that is we declare it into being we simply speak it. So I don’t know right now something is different.

But, you know, as we think about I don’t know, we live right now in a time of ongoing, relentless change. And given that background of ongoing, relentless change, our ability to learn as individuals and organizations, it’s a ten out of ten. It’s a ten out of ten is gigantically important. There’s a great one of my favorite philosophers around, I don’t know are around learning to learn a guy named Eric Hoffer. He said in times of change, those who are prepared to learn will inherit the land, while those who think they already know will find themselves wonderfully equipped to face a world that no longer exists spectacularly compared to yesterday.

They are. They say the Pentagon is always fighting the last war, and so many of us are make fun of the Pentagon for doing that. But we do a lot of that in our own lives.

We do. And maybe this is men more than women. But again, back to Brené Brown, right? The power of vulnerability, women to use the term vulnerability. Men often use the term authenticity. But it’s the same thing, right? It’s this capacity to be real, to be present with other people because we have a good B.S. detector, Reuben, and we also have an authenticity detector. And the older I get, the more obvious this is my public identity is enhanced, not diminished, when I acknowledge areas that I don’t know.

Right, because everybody has a good B.S. detector. Like I do, like I do, and it’s just taken me sixty one years. To get clear on this, but again and again, when you look at the power of language here, right, we declare beginner hood into being, we speak it so kaboom. And it matters. It really matters

That really struck me a lot reading the book. Sorry to interrupt. I want to because I feel like I’m probably not the only one who has this experience. When you get out in the world and you’re an expert in whatever services you provide, you don’t want to say at least I didn’t want to say. I don’t know. When it comes to questions pertaining to what you do, you’re supposed to be the expert. You’re supposed to have the answers. At least this was the narrative in my head. And as I got older and realized that I didn’t have all the answers and that that was actually OK, and I could say, hey, let me ask a bunch of dumb questions. Everything got so much easier.

It really does. It really does. And I had the same experience Reuben in my work and I think a lot of people do. And it’s just modeling it right. The ability as a leader to model this level of authenticity. Now, I don’t know what I found out by Tuesday and now it’s Wednesday. We’re not talking about that. Right. But we’re talking about the first time it raises his head. Is it OK to simply acknowledge, you know, in this moment?

Reuben, I don’t know if we can talk about next steps. We can talk about finding out. We can talk about a lot of things. But in this moment, I don’t know. That’s a great question. You know, there’s a lot of expressions for it, but I think I’m now comfortable enough in my own skin. I’m comfortable enough where I’m able to acknowledge I don’t know, we’re in ways back in my thirties, perhaps it would have been more difficult for me.

And it takes so much pressure off.

And it makes that relationship easier because like you say, people kind of know when you’re not sure or you are afraid to raise up a bunch of questions because you don’t want to admit that you don’t know. So you leave not understanding what you really need to understand.

You know, it’s interesting. You’re right. And as we think about this, this notion of I don’t know what we’re pointing to is authenticity. Right. And meaningful conversations. And the older I get, the more obvious this is, is authenticity is never let me down. And I want to share with your listeners as we’re talking about authenticity, this notion of what is one thing that we can do to be more successful and what have historically been difficult or challenging conversations, because virtually all of us have our version of challenging or difficult conversations.

And so there’s a couple of ways that what we’ve been talking about here over the last. Five or ten minutes, I think, can be applied here, number one, as we think about this. Conversations of self disclosure are powerful. Right, when we declare I don’t know when we share that, that’s a powerful thing. We know that conversations of self disclosure are powerful in our personal lives. I’ve been married almost thirty four years. Right. Being authentic self disclosing where I’m at right now with my wife, it’s a powerful it’s a relationship building competency.

Right. But in our difficult conversations, one of the things that was taught to me is this. If you have a difficult conversation tomorrow, think like this. No. One, there are no guarantees in any conversation. Be comfortable here. No guarantees in any conversation, given that there are no guarantees in any conversation, the preparation may include something like this. OK, OK, I got this conversation tomorrow morning at 9:00. There’s no guarantees. I know that.

What can I do, therefore, in tomorrow’s conversation that no matter what the ultimate outcome turns out to be, I will have the fewest regrets. So no one, no guarantees, No. Two, OK, what can I do in tomorrow’s conversation such that 10 minutes or 10 years later I can look in the mirror and be OK when we really think about it? And I ask this to people all the time, how would that preparation influence you in the conversation?

Most people say, oh, I would be authentic, right? I would I would lay it out there. Hey, listen, Reuben, I’ve avoided this conversation for two weeks, and that’s my fault. And I apologize. I avoided it because I wasn’t sure how to start it. And I also had a little notion in my head that if I had it with you that that you may misinterpret me and that you might quit. I don’t want you to quit, but the status quo cannot continue.

And I’m just struggling with the way to share that with you. And at the same time, have you understand how much I value all these other aspects of your work? Or some version of that, right? Because we’re saying the same thing, this capacity to declare I don’t know is flexing the authenticity muscle. Right. OK, right, we’re just we’re sharing outwardly what we already have inwardly, and so the notion of speaking into your concerns as a conversational competency to create this powerful conversational space, if you have a background concern upstairs that has led you to avoid a conversation, the conversational competency is to speak into that concern overtly and out loud with that person right up front to create a different context for the conversation.

Well, that’s a good segue into some of the other language distinctions you make. I want to talk a little bit about requests and offers and promises, commitments and agreements. Are we talked about assertions and assessments and declarations. Now we want to change how the future works, basically. Right. And that’s what those other distinctions are about. Did I catch that correctly? Yes.

And they’re also about they are the building blocks, the nuts and bolts, the blocking and tackling of collaboration. Right, there are, by definition, what we use to do things with and through other people, you can make assertions by yourself, you can make assessments by yourself, you can make declarations by yourself. But by definition, when you’re making requests, offers and promises, you’re engaging, interacting with other human beings. And over the last 30 years, my work in this area, in organizations is all around execution, coordinating action, accountability.

How do we actually do what we do with and through other human beings? Well, the way organizations coordinate action, the way they actually do what they do is through people making and managing promises with each other. Right. And my wife’s medical practice all day long, you know what they’re doing? They’re making and managing commitments at General Motors all day long. Know what they’re doing. They’re making and managing commitments in neighborhood pizza joint. They’re making and managing commitments.

And the way that we make and manage commitments is not with magic, is with requests, offers and and and promises. And a lot of my work Reuben has to do with sharing people, sharing with people. How do you actually coordinate action? How do you actually collaborate inside your organization?

And can this also saken this also involve collaboration between a client and and a provider? It is.

And the same thing is exactly the same thing. It’s the mechanism by which we do anything collaboratively. Right now. We can coordinate with other human beings. Well, we can coordinate with other human beings not so well, but we can’t not do it because we’re not hermits. Right.

So let’s let’s walk through these requests, offers, promises, commitments and agreements. How should people think about these different types of language?

Well, there are elements of an effective request that I share with folks. There are four valid responses and there are tools for accountability, like the responsible complaint, and there are also distinctions that are important. So let’s start with elements of an effective request for a be considered effective. I like to say we have a committed speaker, a committed listener. We have future action and specific conditions of satisfaction. We have a time frame. We have context of the the request and we have the mood at the request.

Right. So committed Speaker, are you committed? Are you standing in the request? Are you actually getting the other person’s attention or are you throwing the request over your shoulder as you’re leaving the room? Right. Committed listener. We know what this looks like. The other person is not texting somebody else in that moment. They’re looking at you. They’re engaged in future action. What do you want me to do? And conditions the satisfaction. What are the specific criteria that if you saw that on the back end, would allow you to say, I’m satisfied the time frame.

When do you want it? It’s interesting, right? How many of us are we assume there is a background of obviousness around future action conditions and time frame. And sometimes we misgauged. We misjudge it. That was obvious to me is not obvious to you, the context of the request, right? Is it a context of care foundation? I really care enough about you to step into this with you. This is important Reuben the context also has to do with why I am I making the request, help the other person understand this is what’s going on in the background.

This is the why the move to the request. Right. Often if this is the third time I’m making the same request, same person, maybe playfulness is not what we need. Right, right. So being specific. So these are all in the book. They’re actually in both books. But these are distinctions, right? Distinctions around. These are conversational competencies and elements of an effective request. These are distinctions. How can we make an effective request of a colleague and effective request?

A loved one? Valid responses. Yes. No commit to commit and counteroffer. Right, these responses, yes, is a response, of course, after we all after we talk and all the give and take, I end up saying yes, in which case we now have a promise. This is great. Another option is, after all the talking, all the give and take, I end up saying no, which case? We do not have a promise.

We may have learned something, but no commitment is in place. Option three Reuben to understand your request, but I need to check my other calendar. Let me check it. I’ll get back to you. I’ll have a yes or no by 5:00 p.m. today. Not I’ll get back to you later. No, no, no. A yes or no. By 5:00 p.m. today. Commit to commit and finally counteroffer Reuben understand your request. You want for this by Tuesday.

I can’t do for I can do three or I can do for by next Wednesday. Can either of those get us to a Yes counteroffer and Reuben all we’re doing, we’re bringing some rigor. Right, some discipline. We’re bringing a little bit of a shared vocabulary to the blocking and tackling that goes on every day, the actual nuts and bolts of collaboration. And as we’re moving toward the end of our time here, one more thing I have to say is that a one of the most powerful distinctions I was ever taught is this a promise broken is not at all the same thing as a silent expectation unmet.

These are not these are not at all the same thing. I tell folks, look, if you’re married, this will serve you right. This will serve you.

If you break a promise to me, I’m going to make a responsible complaint. We have a trust issue. I’m having this conversation. But if you just don’t magically fulfill my unspoken expectation. I had zero grounds to make a complaint of you zero. Now, I may certainly make a request of you, absolutely, but very different energy and tone and emotion around a complaint than a request. Right? She’s not just that, but think about this resentment is that which arises when you fail to honor a request I never made.

And how how many resentful people are walking around because then their life didn’t magically fulfill their unspoken expectations. So one of my life lessons here, Reuben, is that what percentage of interactions at work or at home? Are occurring via clear commitments versus unspoken expectations. And the ability to dramatically minimize dramatically limit expectations as a vehicle for collaborative action. Is absolutely on the top of my agenda, right, let’s. That makes a lot of sense.

Now, let’s can we go into the distinction between promises, commitments and agreements? Because they sound very similar to high level for me.

I use them interchangeably now if I use it completely interchangeably. But I know there are some folks that use commitments as a more I need to hear you say I commit Reuben. I commit. Right. And and I’ve been with people that have slightly different distinctions in this area. But for me, I use them exactly the same. If you say yes to my request, we have a promise. We have a commitment to have an agreement or an agreement.

OK, perfect. Now, one thing that I wanted to ask you about as well, because I feel like there’s this very powerful notion in the book and I kept in my head strong, sort of a two by two matrix. And most of us are stuck. And I certainly spent my fair share of time stuck on the right versus wrong access. And you introduce this notion of the working versus not working axis and they’re not necessarily in a quadrant. But I think that’s a really powerful pivot to say, let’s stop thinking about who’s right and wrong and let’s think about what’s working and what isn’t. Now, you also write that we sort of have this tendency to create stories that disempower us instead of the stories that are going to lead to working. Why is that and what can we do about it?

You know, first, the right or wrong grid. If we if we have this notion that all the events occur in our life, we make up explanations about these events. We hold our explanations to be the truth and we forget that we made them up. The notion is most of us, if not all of us, grew up with the understanding that our explanations are either right or wrong, our interpretations either right or wrong. And this body of work has everything to do, as you suggest, with substituting the right wrong scaffolding with the works.

Doesn’t work scaffolding does your explanation Reuben does it work or not work, given the ground you say you want to cover these next 12 months, does your interpretation, your explanation, Maria, does it serve you or not serve you, given what you’ve already said you want to be, do or have in this organization and this relationship is your explanation? Is it effective or ineffective, given what you’ve already said your goals are over these next six to nine months?

Right. Always with some version of given the results you say you want never in a vacuum because everybody is making up explanations and interpretations all the time, because we live in language. And these explanations and interpretations are the springboard for our actions is never the event. It’s always the explanation. And because they do this, moving away from the right wrong orientation is very powerful. We haven’t even collectively agreed on what constitutes right or wrong to begin with. But just like I said earlier, Reuben, I alone have cosmic objectivity.

I see things as they are the reason it feels so strange to talk about effective, ineffective or powerful and powerful or helpful, unhelpful when we’re talking about our explanations, our interpretations.

The reason that the reason that feels so strange is because the right wrong grid is so firmly embedded. Right, the right wrong come from is so obviously they’re so already so firmly and ethically present that moving away from it feels strange. It feels strange, but that’s where this is, that’s where we need to be to be conscious designers of our life is to give up the right wrong framework and to adopt the works. Doesn’t work because we’re doing it anyway, right.

We’re already making up interpretations and taking action based on we’re already doing this. We’re not talking you and me right now about whether we’re doing this or not. Know that the the horse left the barn. We’re already doing this. The only thing we’re talking about is do we see this about ourselves? That’s the starting point, because think about it. If you do not see yourself as making up interpretations to begin with and then you couple this with you not producing some important result that you say you want in those situations, the option for you of authoring a more powerful interpretation, it will never occur to you.

Right, it’ll be off your radar screen because if you don’t see yourself as doing this now, there’s nothing to update. Right, you’re trapped, you’re you’re trapped, there’s nothing to update. So back to the big guy, self awareness metaphor, right? The first step, the first step is we have to be able to see we have to be able to acknowledge. We have to be able to to understand that we are we live in language.

The little voice is rarely silent. And that those interpretations that we live in, that we made up, that we hold to be the truth and and that we now forget that we made up those interpretations. These are the drivers of the actions we take in the world. And the actions we take in the world produce results in the world, quantitative and qualitative results in the world, but it all begins. It all begins with our interpretations. But none of what we’re talking about makes any sense at all.

If you don’t see yourself as doing this to begin with. Sure, why do we tend to make up stories that disempower us instead of ones that are going to work well for us? You know, I do not know. I do not. Well, I will share this. Somebody mentioned this to me, taught this to me. And it has an interesting, interesting thought. Go back to prehistory. Go back to when human beings way, way, way back before written history, human beings way, way back on our planet.

Human beings were first, I guess, living in caves or doing whatever we did right way back, way back, back in those days, if you heard a rustle in the reeds. And assertion, and you had the assessment, it was a mouse. You often got eaten, right? So over time, people with artificially ungrounded rose colored assessment’s, they didn’t make it to the gene pool. So there is a healthy skepticism, people that kind of interpreted kind of and thought that maybe it’s the worst thing, they tended to live.

They tended to live because they didn’t get eaten, and I have no idea how much this actually plays out in our lives as modern people, but I do know that scientists and geneticists will tell us that we carry a genetic history with us. Right. We carry in our genes and our biology in those three circles, mood, body language. We carry genetic predisposition and biological history. And so I don’t know Reuben. I don’t know. But I think that that makes sense to me.

I think that’s a great interpretation. And I think it also has something to say about some of our interpersonal reactions, because as social creatures, not only is there a risk of being eaten by a lion, but there’s a notion of getting rejected and losing status within a group that can lead to lower chances of survival and reproduction and so on. And I think we carry some of that with us into our conversations, especially conversations that we think of as hard, where there’s a chance of what we consider rejection, sales, relationships, whatever it may be.

Well said. I am thankful for the invitation to be part of your your podcast. It’s been a pleasure meeting you and getting to know you. And I have to say, I’ve never been on a podcast with a sip of scotch before, so this is fantastic.

Well, you know, I’m all about opening up new distinctions and new ways of seeing the world. Thank you so much for your book. In your time, we’ll have the show notes up. Check it out. Language in the Pursuit of Happiness.

Chalmers Brothers, thanks so much, sir. We’ll talk to you soon. Thanks for listening, if you have a friend who would benefit from this episode, please pass the word along, have a friend who wouldn’t benefit but you haven’t talked to in a while. Give them a call. iTunes reviews are great to get the word out and help me create the show that’s most useful to you. And if you’re frustrated with your sales and marketing process or lack thereof, check out Mimiran the CRM for people who hate selling until next time.

The Wine Whisky

Chalmers enjoyed some Balvenie 14 Carribean Cask (picks up some rum flavor from the barrel– I don’t even like rum, but this is probably my favorite Balvenie).
I had some Oban 18. Yum.


Where to find Chalmers…

Language and the Pursuit of Happiness

Also, if you liked this episode, you’ll probably enjoy Oscar Trimboli’s discussion of Deep Listening.

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com, the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”, (Mimiran also makes it easy to track and grow referrals). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

Want a way to make sales and marketing fun, without being “salesy”? Try Mimiran, the CRM for people who hate “selling”.


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051: Stacey Brown Randall on getting Referrals (without asking)

Stacey Brown Randall has a system for what so many of us rely on to get business: referrals.

She got there as many of us do, through failing after she started her first business, doing HR consulting. She got her clients through networking and “hustle” and had to work too hard. She’s land clients like KPMG, do the work, and then realize she was starting at the beginning again. That’s an OK way to start, but it’s not sustainable, and 4 years later, she was on the same “feast or famine” roller coaster.

I also got brave and did video for this episode, so you can watch that, if you prefer…

In addition, while Stacey knew her stuff and could deliver for clients, she wasn’t a salesperson, even with a corporate background in sales and marketing. Having conversations and turning them into clients wasn’t the problem, it was getting the conversations in the first place.

Looking back on the failed business, she realized that the only referral she got was after she had already shut down the business.

Researching how to get referrals, it all seemed so cheesy and unprofessional. She didn’t want to ask, pay, or be cheesy.

She realized she needed better referrals when she launched her coaching business and got over 100 referrals in the first year (as she has done every since). She had something like 30 referrals sources, some of whom sent double digit referrals. And she did this without any testimonials or case studies.

She also realized that she had to do some business development every day. She didn’t want to do the networking circuit, especially with a young family (tell me about it).

Then people started asking her how she got so many referrals (without asking) and she realized she had something to teach.

Referrals, Introductions, and Word-of-Mouth

What does a “referral” mean, and how is it different from an introduction and word-of-mouth? Referrals have both of these components:

  1. Involve a personal connection that transfers trust. (An introduction.)
  2. Identified need, in other words, the prospect is in buying mode. (Word-of-mouth)

5 Step Process for Referrals

Note– for this to work, you have to do great work which makes you referrable. (This is the subject of Stacey’s second book, Sticky Client Experiences, which she’s working on now.)

To prove this, you must have received a referral (preferably several).

Assuming those are true…

  1. Identify your referral sources. Do it once– it will take a lot of time, but you only have to do it once. (Easy if you have the right CRM.) Who refers you clients. Stacey says that this list is your business’s biggest asset. (I didn’t know Stacey was going to say this when I interviewed her– but you should check out the Referrals screen in the Mimiran CRM.) You’ll probably have a few reactions to this list.
    1. I want more referral sources.
    2. Who are the people I spend a lot of time with who don’t refer me anyone.
    3. Who are the people who refer me business that I don’t talk to enough.
  2. Every time you receive a referral, hand write a thank you note, that is very specific about why you are thanking them– mention which referral you are talking about– even if your handwriting is terrible (ahem!). Take care of your referral sources– they keep you from having to eat rubber chicken dinners!
  3. Have an annual plan for outreach to make your memorable and top-of-mind. Do 4-8 touches per year. This is NOT a newsletter or sending swag. (For example, Stacey realized that most of her referral sources were parents, so she recognized them on Mothers’ Day with a Wonder Woman water bottle.)
  4. Plant referral seeds. Use the right language. Your touch point details will dictate the language, but be authentic.
  5. Create a process that you can execute.

Note that referral sources don’t have to be mutual.

Also note that how many referrals you need will depend on what you sell and your capacity for bringing on clients. For example, if you need 30 new clients per year, and you’re getting 10 referrals from 6 sources, you probably want to double your referral sources. Look at your referrals over the past 3 years (if you have that data).

Never forget that the referral source isn’t doing it for you– they are doing it for their friend, so they can be the hero to them.

The Wine & Beer

I got to enjoy some Sojourn Pinot Noir from Sonoma California (getting a bit fancy with the pandemic and all), and Stacey had one of the 2 remaining Coors Lights in her house. (We could have gone on longer, because this is such a great topic, but I didn’t want her to run out of beer completely.)


Where to find Stacey…

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com, the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”, (Mimiran also makes it easy to track and grow referrals). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.


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046 What I’ve Learned this Decade

Since this episode is coming out in the middle of the holidays, I didn’t want to bury a guest in here. 😉

So here’s a different kind of episode, reflecting on the past decade and some of the things I’ve learned.

The Wine

Chateau Bellevue Bordeaux, 2015. Yum.


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Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

Also, if you can get a free “fill in the blank” hero proposal template. Remember, a proposal is a story, not a brochure.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


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044 John Livesay on Better Selling through Storytelling

John Livesay

John Livesay becomes the second guest to return to Sales for Nerds (catch his earlier episode on how to pitch here). Now he’s back to talk about “Better Selling through Storytelling”, which of course is the name of his new book.

In this episode, John goes into why storytelling is so important (it’s how we actually learn and communicate, not just by dumping facts on people), and how to do it effectively. In particular, John goes into:

Story Structure

Each story has a framework.

  • Exposition (the who, what, when, where, why)
  • The problem– if there’s no problem, there’s no drama
  • The solution
  • And the resolution– what life is like after the solution

How to Move up the “5 I’s” Ladder (whether in sales or in the dating world)

  • Invisible
  • Insignificant
  • Interesting
  • Intriguing
  • Irresistible

Note that most small business are stuck on the first 2 rungs.

The way to move up the ladder is to tell stories (you may have heard them called “case studies”) about one person so that other people can see themselves in the story. These stories will find their way to your buyers and pull them in if you do a good job.

Of course, this means picking your niche so that your story resonates with the other people in that niche. Don’t worry about going too narrow (this should sound familiar from Aaron Ross’s advice on nailing your niche). Your story will still resonate, just not as powerfully, with nearby niches. This is still better than telling a more generic story that applies to everyone, but resonates with no one.

To all the way to the top of the ladder, John (of course) tells the story of meeting Michael Phelps, and how his coach asked if he was willing to train on Sundays. When Michael said that we he was, the coach said, “great, now we have 52 more training sessions than the other swimmers.” This is John’s way of getting us to think about what we can do or offer that no one else can.

Weaving stories together

The buyer wants to see their story in your story about other buyers. They also need to know your story (although we typically focus too much on this part, and not enough on the others). So how do we weave these stories together?

First consider 3 unspoken questions a prospect has. Not: do I know, like, and trust you? But: do I trust, like, and know you? In other words, do I trust you enough to even listen to anything you have to say? Then, do I like you enough to want to listen? And finally, moving from the gut, to the heart, to the head, do I know you (and that you can do the job)?

If you can do that, you can use the case study to weave the stories together.

In this age of more and more information and technology, storytelling is more important than ever, but in John’s view, everyone can be a good storyteller.

Handling the negatives

Don’t get put off by objections– they are buying signals. And don’t forget that it’s not the job of your prospects, strangers, or even your kids to make you feel good. As John writes, “that’s why they call it self-esteem.”

Side note: some slides I often like to use:

The Wine (& Whisky)

John enjoys some Stag’s Leap Chardonnay.

Earlier that morning, I’d had a wisdom tooth out. They told me to avoid alcohol for a couple of days (not because of any health issues, but because it would hurt). I was tempted to just skip having a drink with John, but that didn’t seem right. I also didn’t want to open a bottle of wine if it was too painful to drink. So I decided to have a sip of whisky as a test. All good. So I had a glass of Caol Ila Islay 12 year old scotch.

(I was trying extra hard to concentrate and felt that I wasn’t doing a great job, but John said it was a good conversation.)

Where to find John…

Better Selling through storytelling cover

Get John’s book: Better Selling through Storytelling

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

Also, if you can get a free “fill in the blank” hero proposal template. Remember, a proposal is a story, not a brochure.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

043 Oscar Trimboli on Deep Listening

This is a bit of a different episode, but bear with me. Oscar Trimboli is not a “sales” expert, or a “marketing” expert, or any of the usual experts you’ll find on this podcast. He’s a “deep listening” expert. What does that even mean? And what does it mean for you?

First, consider the time and effort you’ve put into communication. Speaking, writing, presenting. Maybe not as much time and effort as we’d like, but consider how much time and energy have you invested in learning to listen?

Listening is more important that talking, but most of us have no formal training in how to listen. The good news is that you can listen to this episode (no pun intended) and get some great training that will help you be more effective at work and at life.

In this episode, learn:

  • How Oscar learned to be good at cards despite being bad at math.
  • How he decided to focus his career on deep listening.
  • Why deep listening is essential for good sales and marketing
  • How to shorten the sales cycle
  • The 4 listening villains (The Dramatizer, The Interrupter, The Lost Listener, and The Shrewd Listener)
  • The simple reason we have to listen deeply– the rates of speaking (125 words per minute), listening (400 words per minute) and thinking (up to 900 words per minute) are different– so there’s always something unsaid going through the speaker’s mind. You might only be getting 11% of the picture.
  • Listen for code words that show that speaker is getting to thoughts originally unspoken, like “I’ve just realized…” or “what I forgot to mention is…”
  • Deep listening is actually about helping the speaker get their real thoughts out.
  • Why you don’t want to start with “why?” questions, start with “how?” and “what?” (reminiscent of advice Craig Elias gave in Episode 36).
  • Listen to the silence– give your conversation partner time to think
  • The 5 Layers of meaning:
    • Listening to yourself
    • Listening to content (this is where most listening advice starts, forgetting how important it is to get yourself in the right place)
    • Listening for context
    • Listening for what’s unsaid
    • Listening for meaning
  • Simple advice for becoming a better listener: turn off your screens (including mental browser tabs), and take 3 deep breaths so you can slow down and focus on listening.

If you like this episode, check out the Deep Listening podcast and the Deep Listening book (and the box set that includes the cards)

The Wine

I’m enjoying some Qupé Syrah from Santa Barbara County. Oscar is the designated driver, both for his wine-loving relatives and on this podcast.

I enjoyed some Loveblock (that does not sound right, does it?) Sauvignon Blank from New Zealand (taste much better than the name). 😉

Where to find Oscar…

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


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042: Aaron Ross (again) on going From Impossible to Inevitable in Sales

Aaron Ross

Aaron Ross returns to Sales for Nerds after coming on in Episode 20. If you haven’t heard that, you might want to listen to that first (although you don’t have to). Aaron’s got 9 kids (and working on more– many of these are adopted, just FYI), so he’s a busy guy.

He started a company that failed because he didn’t know sales well enough, so he joined Salesforce to learn about sales.

He’s written 2 hugely influential books–

In this episode, Aaron talks about some of the most critical topics in the book (but you should really just read it).

Nail Your Niche

The biggest challenge people have getting a company off the ground is “nailing the niche”. If you don’t do this, you can waste a ton of money, time, and energy on sales and marketing efforts that don’t work. (If you need some help with your niche, see this Mad Libs Positioning Generator tool, and check out the one question you should ask if you’re considering narrowing your or broadening your niche.) We all have fear of missing out (FOMO), but if we don’t focus, it’s very hard to get traction.

How do you know if you have a good niche? If you can describe what you do, whether an elevator pitch or on twitter, do people understand what you do, and do the right people ask for more.

A lot of updates to the second edition involve the deluge of information. Aaron notes that buyers don’t necessarily know more than ever, they’re often more confused than ever.

If you’re in services, it’s easy to say that almost anyone could be in your market, so focus on the use cases where you add the most value.

The Current Information Environment

How do you deal with massive surge of content– you can’t just write a great blog post and get on the front page of Google. You have to create a signature piece of cornerstone content. What’s the one thing you want your company to be known for?

How Do You Grow the Value of Your Company

Another interesting case study from the book is how Bregal Sagemount — a private equity firm– triples the value of a company in 3 years. They mostly focus on growing sales faster– because that grows the value of the company most effectively. They invest in getting more leads, run better meetings, leading to more deals. (Sounds familiar, right?)

Unifying Sales and Marketing, while Specializing Roles

They try to get specialized roles for sales, especially better outbound prospecting, but they also get sales and marketing together as a “revenue team”. One of the best practices is to put marketing on a quota for sales-qualified leads or revenue, if the sales cycle is short enough (a quarter or less). So if you want to increase the value of your company, increasing sales growth and predictability is likely the way to go.

How do you define a qualified lead? This will vary from company to company and even by channel (an inbound lead is usually more qualified than an outbound lead, for example). A starting point for a qualified lead might be:

  • Do they have authority
  • Do they have a need
  • Do they want a next step

Note that in industry, a person with enough authority can make budget and timing happen.

Inbound and Outbound (Nets and Spears)

Inbound is great, outbound is great. And they go great together. Outbound lets you access parts of the market that don’t know you exist, and you can define your targets. If you’re going to do outbound, make sure one person owns the initiative. At least one person should be doing this full time for a few months. One example is Zuora, which had reps doing 30 calls and 60 emails per day. The better you know your customer, the better you’ve nailed your niche, the easier this outbound prospecting gets.

If you don’t know who to call, but you know which companies, you can call the company and ask nicely.

When someone asks what you do, pretend they asked you “how do you help your customers?” Use the first 3 seconds of the conversations to earn the next 60 seconds.

By all means, check out the book… (see links below)

Home

The Wine (and the Beer)

Aaron is enjoying some Stella Artois (“when I was in Belgium, this was the stuff they serve to tourists, but it’s tasty.”)

I enjoyed some Loveblock (that does not sound right, does it?) Sauvignon Blank from New Zealand (taste much better than the name). 😉

Where to find Aaron…

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

038: Liston Witherill on growing your consulting practice beyond referrals

Liston got his start in environmental engineering, and picked up a lot of sales and marketing expertise along the way. He started freelancing as a digital marketer (“I knew enough to be dangerous”) and started an agency.

However, as marketing scales, it becomes less about individual people and more about numbers. He missed the one-on-one interaction, so he started his current venture, to help consultants scale their practices, making him a great fit for Sales for Nerds, since that’s really the whole mission of the podcast.

In this episode, learn:

  • About Liston’s life work: understanding how people make decisions and why.
  • The three types of consulting founders (and why all of them rely on sales to make money).
  • Which is why you need to invest in sales and marketing the same way you invest in your craft.
  • How you can be more proactive in generating referrals and word-of-mouth type sales, instead of waiting passively for that business to come to you.
  • How to use inbound and outbound strategies together, and why they are both important.
  • To quote @garyvee, “Businesses won’t survive unless they’re media companies.” (Or, as I wrote a couple years ago, every company is a media company.)
  • How to deal with your fear of entering the media world.
  • The one critical thing you need more of to get more clients.
  • Liston’s simple, attainable, really strong outbound sales strategy that you can start doing right now.
  • How to handle inbound inquiries better.
  • Much, much more…


The Wine Whisky

Liston brings some Kentucky bourbon– Ri(1) (pronounced Rye-one).

I was all out of Lagavulin, perhaps my favorite Scotch, but I did have some Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition laying around, which brings a bit more sherry flavor to the peaty intensity of Lagavulin. I think this is probably the most expensive bottle I’ve featured on the podcast, although on a per-serving basis, whisky is a pretty good value. 😉

And, if you’re in Portland and like whisk{e}y, Liston recommends the Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library, where just the Scotch section of the menu runs 20 pages.


Where to find Liston:

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients but would love some help getting more). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

037: Rick Middlemass on Sales Psychology

Rick Middlemass

Rick is the VP of Sales and Marketing for National Association of Sales Professionals, so he’s like an uber meta-sales person, but that’s not how he started. He got a summer internship knocking on doors for a painting company. Learn about his journey, and hear Rick’s insights on sales psychology, including:

  • Why you’re a sales professional if you’re a business owner.
  • What he learned his first day doing door-to-door sales as an introvert, and how you can use it when dealing with your own inner psychology.
  • How Rick became the #1 sales rep for a Cisco integrator, outselling many people who had been there long before him.
  • How much time to give yourself to do research before a call.
  • How information gets conveyed (55% body language, 38% tone, 7% words). This is why talking on the phone loses so much information.
  • (Check out the show Lie to Me for more on how body language reveals a lot about us.)
  • The importance of finding mentors, and why it’s not as hard as you think.
  • Pre-framing (don’t just punt it to the prospect), re-framing (getting back on track), and de-framing (backing out gracefully if there isn’t a fit) are 3 great skills to learn.
  • Learn to ask questions gently, but persistently.
  • Sales is not about directing, it’s about aligning and redirecting. (Don’t attack someone, they will put up a wall.)
  • The one thing Rick would like people to fix: don’t focus on yourself.


The Wine

Rick brings some innovation to Sales for Nerds by having champagne.

I make a move to Burgundy with Chateau de Santenay Bourgogne Pinot Noir, which is definitely more earthy than the California Pinot I often drink, but still accessible and it doesn’t have the deep earth flavors some people don’t enjoy.

Where to find Rick:


listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients but would love some help getting more). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):